SAFA Gauteng today launched the Gauteng Development League, which will see academies battling against each other.

The launch took place at SAFA House in Nasrec, Johannesburg.

The Gauteng Development League (GDL) has been running for the last six years since its inception in 2011 with the realised need to create a strength vs strength competition – this in order to improve the level of youth football development in the Province.

Initially, the league targeted PSL academies and the likes of Transnet School of Excellence and Rosina Sedibane. Last year, the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) of Gauteng decided to widen the net by inviting even the non-PSL teams in order expand this magnificent programme.

“We had nine teams when we started, but we have now grown to more than 20 teams which we have divided according to strength – and we are doing to this to better develop our players. We didn’t want a situation where a team won 15-0 or so and think they are strong, we wanted them to compete equally. This project is bearing fruit because a majority of players in junior national teams come from this initiative,“ said Willie Mooka, SAFA GAUTENG Co-chairperson.

“At the end of the day we want all five regions of this province to have academies so that when we select a provincial side, it is fully representative. And if we work together we can make it. We have come a long way and we are not where we want to be as yet, but we are clearly on the right track.”

Some of the academies that will take part in the league are Supersport United, Mamelodi Sundowns, Bidvest Wits, Orlando Pirates, School of Excellence, Platinum Stars, Black Aces and Highlands Parks.

All the sides will compete in four divisions – u13, 15, u17 and u19.

“At SAFA we are very passionate about development, and this project speaks to us and is in line with our Vision 2022. We want this league to be the blueprint for other provinces so we can have stronger national teams. This league will also help with proper scouting because this is where you will see the best talent on display so it is very important to us as an Association,” said SAFA Technical Director, Neil Tovey.

“Looking at another perspective, we need qualified youth coaches because they will be able to deal with the top players, so from the 343 LFAs, we could train coaches who will be able to help with our vision of having a lot of qualified coaches. And the same goes with referees, if we have teams playing good football they also need match officials who are up to standard. Lastly we will also need women teams and all these are challenges for the future, but I must say this is a wonderful initiative and I hope it keeps growing. Well done to SAFA Gauteng for improving this province.”

The objectives of the GDL are:

* The GDL aims to attract good and competitive teams around Gauteng so as to a conducive environment for youth football development

* Creation of strength versus strength competitive environment

* Create a pool of players for the national teams, especially the junior teams

* Through the GDL, the Gauteng Province is placed at the best position to dominate among the nine Provinces of the country in terms of National championships.

The teams will have on their benches some former players like – Joel Masilela, Isaac Shai, Kwanele Kopo, Innocent Chikoya, Dillion Sheppard, Glen Salmon, MacBeth Sibaya, Edelbert Dinha and Augusto Palacios.

The GDL has produced some of the players who went on to make a name for themselves and some are currently in the South Africa u20 Men’s National Team that has qualified for the 2017 FIFA u20 World Cup in South Korea.

Some of those players are, and some will still be playing this season: Tebogo Moerane (Bidvest Wits and SA u23); Phakamani Mahlambi (Bidvest Wits and SA u23); Denwin Farmer (Supersport United and SA u23); Athenkosi Dladla (Supersport United and SA u17 World Cup squad); Sidney Mtshweni (Supersport United and SA u20); Liam Jordaan (Sporting Lisbon and SA u20).

The following teams will participate in the 2017 season of GDL:

Stream A clubs:

Supersport United Sandton Park
Mamelodi Sundowns Sporting FC
Bidvest Wits Graceland United
Jomo Cosmos Fair Field Soccer Academy
Rosina Sedibane Holy Stars Academy
School of Excellence Shephered Bushiri
Orlando Pirates Lenasia Academy
Tuks FC
Shumba FC
Wits Juniors
Platinum Stars
Highlands park
Black Aces
Kathorus Hyper Academy

Stream B clubs:

Sandton Park
Sporting FC
Graceland United
Fair Field Soccer Academy
Holy Stars Academy
Shephered Bushiri
Lenasia Academy

The GDL games will be played on a home and away basis, and the teams will use the following venues:

Highlands Park – Balfour Park Grounds

Jomo Cosmos – Rand Stadium

Mamelodi Sundowns – Clapham High

Kathorus Hyper Academy – Hunters Field Grounds

Supersport United – TUT Tshwane

Orlando Pirates – Randburg Stadium

Panorama – Panorama Grounds

Shumba – Leuwkop Prison Grounds

Tuks – University of Pretoria Grounds

Rosina Sedibane Grounds – Rosina Sedibane Grounds

School of Excellence – Esselen park Grounds

Platinum Stars – Bafokeng Sports Complex

Bidvest Wits – Sturrock Park Grounds

Wis Junior – Marks Park Grounds

Black Aces – Greeks Sporting Club Grounds

Some of the success stories of the GDL include:

* Played a key role in Gauteng Province‘s success in the last year u19 Men’s Burger King National Championships in Cape Town. Most of the players came from Shumba FC, Wits Junior, Black Aces, Rosina Sedibane and Mamelodi Sundowns

* Gauteng Development Leagues have consistently dominated the SA national Tournaments such as the Bayhill Premier Cup. SuperSport United FC are the current champions

* In 2015 Under 17 World Cup, thirteen players that represented South Africa were from the GDL

* Shungu Dutiro from Bidvest Wits was selected to be in the top 60 of the best young talent in world football