19 July 2017 – The South African Football Association (SAFA) recently unveiled a United Schools Body to fully unite and unify all schools across the country under one umbrella.
This came after both SAFA and the South African Schools Football Association (SASFA) finally agreed that this standardization and timely unification was the best way forward for schools as well as South African football as a whole. It is a union that SAFA have been campaigning and suggesting for a very long time and means that schools will no longer be fragmented and divided. This can only mean great things for over 20 000 schools, thousands of students as well as relevant sponsors.
But why is such an initiative as important as people are making it out to be? Can it really rejuvenate school football structures, drive grassroots development, be the catalyst in unearthing young stars and benefit national teams? The answer is a resounding yes and here’s why.
Schools football is logically the ultimate breeding ground for development and growth of youth. There can be no better medium or platform for providing youngsters with the necessary basic skills, training (both tactical and technical), guidance and tools that they will require while moving up the various echelons of their footballing careers.
Attempting to coach an 18 year-old into the next Lionel Messi will be foolhardy. Aspects such as positional awareness, technique, ball retention, ball control, game management, set-piece play, what to do off the ball and use of the ball in tight spaces are best taught at school level. Teaching a player to improvise and ‘think on their feet’ is best learnt in early school years. Team values and discipline must also be taught young and again, it is advisable that this is done while still at school.
The above will not be possible without a proper national school structure. Everyone needs to be on the same page and everything properly standardised in order to achieve this. One, united and holistic schools football system is the most intelligent method of ensuring such synergy and the United Schools Body provides exactly that!
Different organisations running schools sport mean different visions and ideas which is not advisable if a country is to be successful on the world stage, compete and win World Cups. The Spanish believed whole-heartedly in their quick-passing ‘tiki-taka’ style which was implemented and taught at school level to promising youngsters. Such individuals naturally grew up with this through the various levels of development before entering the national team, who then utilized this technique (or ‘secret weapon’) to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup
National playing style comes into play here. SAFA’s much talked about Vision 2022 project identifies this as a vital aspect for success. Key principles of this philosophy include teamwork and national pride, promoting individual flair/skill and goal direction.
A United Schools Body can help facilitate such aspects and by schools no longer being fractured, there will be naturally more room as well as structure to also source more female players as well as coaches and administrators from both genders.
Another aspect of the Vision 2022 blue-print is the goal of having up to ten percent (10%) of the population actively involved in football by that year. The only way to ensure this is to promote football at the youngest possible age and this can hence only be done at school level.
SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan recently talked about the importance of such a transformation as he stated: “One of the problems of school’s sports is that it is divided. We want the township schools to play against the Model C schools and private schools.” The United Schools Body will go a long way to rectifying and remedying such situations.
The Kay Motsepe Schools Cup is a great example of what schools football can bring to the table and has already proved why schools talent should not be neglected. The United Schools Body can now take such an initiative to even greater heights with no more divisions and confusion.
Ultimately, a united schools football entity can only assist in ensuring positive changes to South African football overall and provide the perfect stepping-stone for higher levels of football and eventually benefit senior national teams.