Development players in South African football has always been a major talking point as many feel that these young stars are never fully given a fair chance to display their talents in highly competitive matches in the local league.
However, this past weekend in the Soweto Derby, Kaizer Chiefs gave two of their players from their development side an opportunity to shine in one if the biggest matches on Mzansi's calendar.
In this week’s SportPesa Clubhouse column, ambassador Doctor Khumalo touched on this decision that coach Ernst Middendorp made to give the players the platform to do their business on the field.
“This week I would like to focus on development and playing youngsters in a highly competitive game, with the Soweto Derby having played last weekend. We saw the Kaizer Chiefs technical team play two youngsters (Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya and Happy Mashiane) in their starting line-up. While this column’s focus is not on the derby or Chiefs, as I’m talking development, it is important to highlight what playing those two boys in that game brings to their development. It was significantly important for those boys to get that opportunity, which is something that hasn’t been happening in a long time now. Some of us graduated in similar conditions where we were promoted and exposed to big games at a young age, with the view and belief that we’d go on to make a big impact in the team.
“It isn’t just about the derby because other teams have to produce and promote youngsters as well, for the betterment of South African football. Sometimes winning overrides the importance of development, which is very sad because playing youngsters doesn’t guarantee a loss. It is just that we tend not to believe in our youth, but there’s only one way for these youngsters to develop and grow in the game and that’s through being given opportunities. There’s a lot going into development and I can count a number of players who were exposed to these high-intensity games at a young age and went on to achieve a lot. That’s because they got used to pressure situations at a young age.
“Look at Gerald Sibeko, Jabu (Pule) Mahlangu, Brian Baloyi, the late Thabang Lebese, Thabo Mooki, myself and many others. Once you get given that opportunity, you want to grab it with both hands so that you make a mark. You start thinking about where it all started for you and you never want to disappoint anyone. It is when you are aware of your responsibility, role and the expectations from everyone that you are fully developed and focused. You then feel free to express yourself because you know you’ve got everyone’s support and belief. You start showing your skill, physical abilities and then you are able to overcome any obstacle on the field.
The Amakhosi legend went on to talk about what is missing in the development stages in the academies in the country.
To find out what Khumalo had to say, check out this week’s SportPesa Clubhouse column in Soccer Laduma, issue 1110.