In this week’s SportPesa Clubhouse column, ambassador, Doctor Khumalo touched on the importance of throwing youngsters into the deep end in high profile matches to grow their confidence and for them to gain the necessary experience.
“We celebrate our U20 national team qualifying for the World Cup, we celebrated our U17s both male and female, for qualifying for the World Cup. With what is happening around the world, how are our U17, U20 and U-23 going to compete successfully against their peers if they are not exposed on the bigger stage like their counterparts? How can we compete with the rest of the world if we are scared to play our youth in the big stages at club level? Are we results-driven so much that we neglect our development? Yet, by the same token, are Man United and other European teams not interested in results when they play their youngsters? They definitely are!
“I have seen Liverpool introduce youngsters in a must-win game and these same youngsters go on to represent their respective countries at international tournaments and compete against players like ours, who are deprived of this experience at club level, who are expected to match up to them. By the time these European youngsters reach 23, they’ve already been taught how to manage their careers while ours are still being introduced to the game.
“At that age, the Europeans already know how to handle their finances, what it means to wear their team’s jersey, what being a professional footballer is all about. They will understand what it means to have supporters, what representing the country means and these are things that we only want to teach our players at 24, 25 or even 26, which is too late.
“Our players realise all these important aspects of the game only when they get to 30 years, at which stage a lot of damage has been caused already. It is too late to mature at that stage and I know a lot of football people will understand what I’m talking about here. Yes, it is good for us to celebrate our qualification for these junior international tournaments, but we can’t forget about progression. What happens to these players after their qualification? We have to progress further after qualifying and set new targets, but that will need everyone’s buy-in.”
Khumalo also made reference to the Bafana Bafana squad that won the AFCON 1996 and he pointed out that it was not by fluke that they went on to win that tournament.
To check out what the Kaizer Chiefs legend had to say, grab a copy of this week’s edition of Soccer Laduma, issue 1114.