Chairperson of SAFA Competitions Committee Ms. Nomsa Mahlangu has urged all teams that took part in the SAFA U19 Championships to build on the experience they got from the tournament.

Chairperson of SAFA Competitions Committee Ms. Nomsa Mahlangu has urged all teams that took part in the SAFA U19 Championships to build on the experience they got from the tournament.

Speaking at the end of the week-long tournament that was played at Clive Solomon Stadium in Heidedal, Bloemfontein, Mahlangu said youth development was ‘our responsibility as a nation.’

SuperSport United beat Ajax Cape Town 4-1 on penalties in the final after the two sides were locked at 0-0 at the end of regulation time.

“I would like to thank everyone who helped put this tournament together. I think it was a worthwhile experience for all and sundry.

“Whenever Bafana Bafana loses a match, we blame either the players or coaches. We should, as a nation, also shoulder that blame because it is our responsibility to nurture these players from young ages. If we don’t, we will continue to be underachievers. Youth development is crucial for the success of national teams,” said Mahlangu.

The four teams that made it to the last four are Bloemfontein Celtic, Free State, Ajax Cape Town and Supersport United, showing there is still a gap between the provincial sides and the club academies.

The teams that failed to make the last four are North West, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

Mahlangu said it was also pleasing that matches in such tournaments had become more organised and structured.

“We are no longer seeing the disturbing trend of huge scorelines. Teams come here more prepared and I have seen lots of improvement among all the teams. We must thank our sponsors Grand Parade Investments and Burger King for bankrolling this event which helps us grow the game in the country,” added Mahlangu.

The participants have also hailed SAFA for the initiative.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction. The level of competition has certainly improved over the last few years. Also our players now know what to eat, how to train and how to behave. The invitation of club academies has also helped in raising the standard of the game. As a province we played well, picking up six points in the process, which is a good return considering the toughness of the competition. We were second to Supersport United, a team with a good development structure in place; so I am happy with the exercise and we will improve going forward,” said Derrick Philander, Western Cape Team Manager.

Simon Mashabela, Mpumalanga Team Manager had this to say: “This tournament was really exciting and one of the best I have ever attended. The boys really enjoyed themselves and got the much-needed exposure. They now know what to expect going forward and that they need to improve.”

Siboniso Vilakazi of KZN said he was impressed by the entire proceedings of the tournament.

“We as KZN are really impressed with our boys for showing real determination and skill. They have learnt a great deal and the experience of just being here. The overall experience was priceless and I would like to thank SAFA and the sponsors for this,” said Vilakazi.

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