The fourth and last phase of the SAFA Grassroots festival was concluded in Kimberly on Friday, 24 September 2010. It was held at the Kimberly Technical School. The festival is a day’s program used to introduce children aged between six and twelve years to football. It comes immediately after a coach-educator seminar that teaches the coaches to run with the program. Three others were held in Tshwane, Mafikeng and Bloemfontein. The whole event is run by FIFA who have sent instructors to oversee the project.
Horst Kriete, a former Director of Coaching at SAFA, and now a FIFA Instructor has been in South Africa conducting seminars on the event.
“I am really excited by what I have seen. The enthusiasm from the coach-educators and the kids has been great to see. So far we have trained 120 coach-educators since the start of this programme in South Africa, and we are positive that we have planted a seed that will grow into great results some day. With this program it becomes clear how we can contribute to the social development of kids because this is the age where they are taught that sport is part of life, sport is part of culture, football is a team sport where we have to share certain elements. We also teach them that we have to learn to win but also learn to lose and really help support each other. So football help to integrate kids socially, it is a vehicle for all the elements we feel our youngsters should learn at school – indirectly football is a school of life,” said Kriete after the end of the grassroots festival in Kimberly.
The German national added that he is optimistic that having started with this program then South Africa is on the right track in terms of development.
“Most of the German national team players that you see as stars today also started here so I am certain this will bear fruit. We have done now four of these festivals here in South Africa with the help of FIFA, but that is not enough, we have to do more with the help of the 120 coach-educators to run with the program. Most of the SAFA National Executive Committee (NEC) members that have witnessed these programs are impressed, but I must warn you that you won’t see results in two or three years. In fact in five or six years some of these youngsters might turn out for the Under 17 National team. We have grabbed on the idea, now we must be patient and stick to it because there are no shortcuts. In 1999 when a former national team coach of France was asked how long it took for them to prepare for the 1998 World Cup and win it, he said ten years. Also for the success of this program, we need people with a lot of passion to help the kids because this is very demanding, but if done correctly the results will make the whole country proud. This is not a once-off event it has to continue week by week. If South Africa wants to be number one in Africa it has to push these grassroots programs permanently
SAFA’s Technical Director Serame Letsoaka worked side by side with Kriete at the Grassroots Program. A former coach of the Under 20 squad that went to the FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Egypt last year, he is of the view that the foundation has been laid, and South Africa can’t look backwards.
“The four pillars of SAFA development that we are working on now is Grassroots, Elite football, Coach Education and Football Development. Fortunately FIFA has come on board in a big way to say we want to help member associations by launching this program in each and every country. We have been given a chance to rectify our football structures and this is the perfect route to take. The people who have been trained here in Kimberly and in Mafikeng, Tshwane as well as in Bloemfontein are the ones that will help us roll out the program to other areas of our country, we need them to go back to their regions and Local Football Associations (LFA) to conduct these program every week to ensure sustainability. If you want to identify talent, you don’t look at your 16 and 17 year olds, you identify talent at 12 and put them in a proper structure, then you start working with them and bringing them up. When they are 16 you must make sure that the technique is sound, not the current situation that we find ourselves in having to teach the basics to Under 20s. We need to afford these kids the opportunity to play all the time so they can be able to correct the technique they are working on before they can move forward, and we are sure by the time they are 16 we will have better players in the country,” said Letsoaka.