The SAFA Transnet Football School of Excellence was started by ex Bafana Bafana captain, Neil Tovey, in February 1994 with the sole purpose of further developing exceptionally talented players.

The SAFA Transnet Football School of Excellence was started by ex Bafana Bafana captain, Neil Tovey, in February 1994 with the sole purpose of further developing exceptionally talented players that attended his many soccer clinics held around the country to feed into the professional ranks. Fast forward 21 years and the objective of the school is still the same.

The school’s Under-19 team are Gauteng’s Ekurhuleni North district winners of the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup, sponsored by the Motsepe Foundation and Sanlam, and while the coach, Lefa Mathebula would like to emulate the 2012 victory again this year and win the R1 million as national champions, that is not the focus of the school.

“We don’t measure our success by wins but by the players we produce for professional teams.” Mathebula said. “We obviously want the team to win the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup this year but winning must be in the context of development. Every year the competition gets tougher and tougher, but we concentrate on the growth of our players.”

The School of Excellence has a policy of keeping coaches with their teams as they progress through the age groups, so Mathebula has been with this group of players since 2011 when they came to the school as under-14s.

“We don’t have 18 and 19 year-olds at the school, he explains. This is a young group of players, but they have been together for a long time and have grown into a tight unit,” he said.

Mathebula has been coaching since 1999 and is well qualified. He has a Level 2 SAFA coaching Qualification, CAFB licence, FIFA Grassroots Coaching Qualification and a BTech in Sports and Exercise.

He explained the school’s selection process which involves going to all nine provinces to look for the best young players. “We have a very strict Identification programme, looking for players that stand out above the rest. We look at technical proficiency, athleticism, technical awareness and mental strength.

“The players have to go through a number of phases before they get offered bursaries at the school. We run a tight ship at the school and give opportunities to players that are willing to learn and take what we teach them and make a success out of it.”

The School of Excellence has produced many star players over the years. Currently, Paseka Sekese, was part of the 2012 team that competed in the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup and currently plays for Bidvest Wits, as does his 2012 team mate, Abednigo Mostatlhaga. Aubrey Mapahosa of Mpumalanga Black Aces is also a product of the school.

While the road to the Gauteng inter-district phase has been tough, Mathebula is optimistic about the tournament this year, and thinks they might reach the national finals.

“But we are taking each game and level as it comes,” he said. “We don’t want to focus on the bigger picture and lose focus on the next phase of the tournament,” he said.

There are several star players in the 2015 team. Two of them: Siyabongakonke Mbatha and Edwin Sikhwama played for the under-17 national team at the 2015 CAF U-17 African Youth Championships, while another – Dlozi Ndaba – was one of four players in the whole country chosen to travel to Brazil to participate in a talent search in the hopes of signing a contract with a European club.

Mathebula is a firm believer in a South African style of soccer and is critical of the PSL-affiliated academies who try to adopt a European style of play.

“People should definitely look forward to the South African style of football from us”, he said. “We want to restore faith in our own style, embrace it and show other teams that South African football still exists.”

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