26 July 2017 – The South African U17 Men’s National Team (Amajimbos) is currently in Mauritius for the 2017 edition of the Southern African regional tournament and although Amajimbos have qualified for the semi finals; they have had their fair share of obstacles.

The South Africans had to dig deep; when they came back from behind twice; to eventually beat Madagascar 5-3 in their last group stage match on Tuesday, 25 July. Although credit will always be given to the head coach for his tactical approach to a game, many a times the backroom staff is overlooked.

SAFA.net took time out to speak to Team Manager Tladi Levy Ramajoe, who has years of experience in the national team, having been a part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the 2016 Rio Olympics and many more regional, continental and international tournament.

We speak to him about his role in the team, what it is to play for the nation and some of the aspects it takes in preparing a national team, especially of this age group.

NM: Manager, thank you for your time. Firstly please explain in detail the role of a Team Manager?

TR: It is my utmost pleasure. To be a team manger is one of the most exciting but taxing jobs in the team. A team manager is the point of administration and logistics for any and everything that a team will need before and once they are together. You are basically the co-ordinator of everything.

The first thing a manager is responsible for is to sit down with the head coach and plan. Planning involves the coach’s technical staff, the players the coach wants, where the team will stay, train and how they will travel.

Once the head coach has provided all this information to his/her team manger the real work begins. It is the responsibility of the manager to draft the camp budget; keeping in mind that at national level, you play another country therefore foreign currency must be considered.

Once the budget is approved by the powers that be the team has to call up players. This initials liaising with clubs and the player’s managers, along with the Premier Soccer League in South Africa. Once the clubs agree to release the players then the team manager has to co-ordinate travel arrangements with the players, each and every player has different travel itineraries and each and every player must be picked up and taken to the camp.

Once a camp starts, it is the team manager’s responsibility to ensure that everything runs smoothly; however working with people is never easy and there are always issues that arise in camp that need experience to be sorted out.

NM: That is quiet a mouthful. What are so of the main issues you face, when calling players up to the National team?

TR: Different age groups come with different issues. For explain with the senior teams (Banyana Banyana, Bafana Bafana and the Olympic Team), sometimes clubs do not release the players the coach wants. There are numerous reasons why this happens but it is also the responsibility of a team manager to find common grounds with the club for the benefit of the nation. I will be honest, there are times when I win this battle and times when I do not. The junior teams have less dramatic issues but they are still very critical. At times a player is called up to the National team for the first time and has never travelled out of the country. This meaning they report to camp with no passports and relevant documents; again it is the responsibility of the manager to ensure that these documents are applied for and received before a team travels.

I believe another major issue is bringing many different personalities together. There have been times in the past where players who have different backgrounds need to be sat down and spoken to about behaviour.

NM: Amajimbos is the National U-17 team, what are the main issues when dealing with this age group?

TR: Amajimbos is a National team for players under the age of 17 years old; therefore they are still minors. The biggest challenge we have had over the past two or three years is that players or children in fact of that age group do not have identity documents; therefore they do not have passports. We also have had to follow the act of the Home Affairs Department; which speaks of unabridged birth certificates. This has been an issue for us because at times and in our society sometimes children have missing parents, or family issues which prevent them from attaining these documents.

Another issue at this level is the fact the players are still very young children and they need guiding on everything. A team manager at U-17 level is also a father figure. 

NM: SAFA’s Vision 2022 stipulates that by the time a player is at the senior national team, he/she must have a certain number of international caps. According to you, what do you think are the reasons for this?

TR:  I support Vision 2022 wholeheartedly because playing for the badge is not easy. There is a lot of physiological pressure on players when they represent their nation; therefore if a player is not overwhelmed by his/her surroundings they will be comfortable.

There have been many players in the past who have failed to achieve their full potential because their foundations were not laid correctly and I believe that Vision 2022 is trying to fix that. Development at international level is more than just technical ability. it is also about mental fitness and emotional intelligence. People differ and playing football around the world come with new challenges, players need to learn from a young age how to deal with pressure. 

NM: Mr Manager thank you for your time and all the best in the remaining match of the 2017 COSAFA U-17 Championships.

TR: Thank you and it was great chatting to you.