29 September 2018 – Head coach of the South African U20 Men’s National Team (Amajita), Thabo Senong, says they are in the final month of monitoring and scouting for players as they prepare to defend the U20 COSAFA Cup title, which will be played in Zambia at the end of November.
Senong adds that they will hold a training camp for Amajita in the middle of November.
“The training camp will start preparations for the defence of the U20 COSAFA Cup, which will be played in Zambia and we will be using that tournament also as preparations for the 2019 CAF U20 AFCON that will take place in Niger (2-17 February),” said Senong.
“I am doing a lot of scouting with assistant coach Helman Mkhalele and goalkeeper coach Lucky Shiburi. At the end of October we will be visiting clubs and players in Cape Town just to make sure that our players are in good physical and mental condition because we need them to have the right mentality and fitness levels when we start camp. This is a very crucial period for Amajita as we begin our journey to return to the U20 FIFA World Cup spectacle.”
The 2019 U20 Africa Cup of Nations tournament serves as a qualifier for the FIFA U20 World Cup scheduled for Poland later next year – four top teams from the AFCON will represent the African continent.
The qualified teams are South Africa, hosts Niger, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.
Senong has just returned from the Netherlands where he graduated with a Master in Coaching Diploma, from the Johan Cruyff Institute.
He attended a seven-month course divided into three blocks.
Among many topics, the modules included Leadership of Coaching, Psychology and Developing own Coaching style.
“The course went very well and I am glad I attended because the game is evolving and it is important for coaches to keep on learning so as not to fall behind, especially from our European counterparts – we need to close the gap, so the journey continues,” added Senong.
“The biggest takeaway for me from this course is that a coach needs to learn continuously. It is also important for a coach to have a personal mentor on an on-going basis because the journey needs monitoring from experienced mentors. I also learnt how to deal with team dynamics in different cultural environments because a coach must be an adaptor – you don’t go around imparting your philosophy everywhere but you adapt to the environment and the needs of your athletes, and these can help you develop you highly.”
The Amajita mentor speaks highly of the Johan Cruyff Institute.
“Yes, I will definitely recommend it to a lot of people because Cruyff was a special individual, an independent thinker and an innovative coach. He designed the philosophy for both Barcelona and Ajax Amsterdam, and he produced coaches like Pep Guardiola and Frank Rijkaard. Today people love total football and the beautiful game all because of Cruyff,” said Senong.
“I believe it is important as a coach to develop a coaching style that can inspire, that can produce something nice for the game but that can also inspire up and coming coaches to be innovative so that the game can continue to grow for the benefit of our talented players, especially in South Africa.”
Senong has been appointed Ambassador of the Institute, and his main role is to motivate other coaches, not just in South Africa but also on the continent.
During his studies, Senong divided his time between the Johan Cruyff Institute, and the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth where he was studying the FIFA Sports Management Programme.
He has just recently completed the course and will graduate on Tuesday, 2 October.
“I have always believed that coaching is a demanding career where the coach has to be a psychologist, a leader, a motivator, a father and a tactician. Coaches need to look at different fields in order to get the best out of their players in South Africa, and Africa as a whole,” said Senong.
“Without being curious, we are going to struggle as coaches and as a footballing nation. My secret to other coaches is to remain curious and to have equitable skills and we will grow together with our players, and grow the game in our country, and eventually on our continent, which will spill out to the world.”
The Amajita mentor has congratulated Banyana Banyana for winning the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship. He wished them well for the upcoming international friendly matches against Chile.
“Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Banyana Banyana as they continue to raise the South African flag, and to inspire the young Amajita boys to also raise the flag and remain the powerhouses in our continent, and also work hard to be present in all major international tournaments,” concluded Senong.
“The two friendly matches away to Chile are a good exercise for our national team to prepare for the AFCON in Ghana and also to try and activate the players for the demands of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019. We can only wish them all the best and we know they will represent us well in South America.”
- The Johan Cruyff Institute is an educational institution, founded by Johan Cruyff, aimed at educating athletes, sport and business professionals in the field of sport management
- The academic institution was founded in 1999 with a program for 35 athletes as part of the Johan Cruyff Academy of Amsterdam and has since then become a global network
- In 2002, the Johan Cruyff Institute Barcelona was opened and established as the international headquarters
- There are 5 Johan Cruyff Institute (postgraduate and executive education), 3 Johan Cruyff Academy (graduate education) and 5 Johan Cruyff College (vocational training).