15 November 2018 – Vision, succinct planning, long-term strategies, unique philosophies and more.

These are simply a few of the hallmarks of the Alexandra Black Aces Youth Development Academy, who are based at the Greek Sporting Club in Bedfordview.

MySAFA chatted with the programme director, Mr Tony Dias, a man who has brought a certain sense of innovation to the ‘Gold City Giants’ youth system.

“About six or seven years ago I was working within the Bloemfontein Celtic youth structures and was approached by Aces to begin a long-term process to recruit young talent. It was actually a five-year plan and it has luckily been successful. We began at U-12 level and it steadily progresses from there,” said Dias.

Through this initiative, the club have managed to unearth star talents, who have caught the eye of many.

“I remember fondly when we were in the PSL but since then it has been tough to retain players. The likes of Thabo Nodada (Cape Town City), Judas Moseamedi (Free State Stars), Loizos Fotiou (Cyprus youth leagues), Bradley Cross (Schalke), Keegan Mitchel (Wits/U-20 national side), Junior Nare (Wits) and Constandino Christodoulou (Maritzburg United), are just a few of the names who grew up within our systems,” stated Dias.

Dias and team have specific development ideas and methodologies to support their overall footballing philosophy, with a particular focus on technical aspects.

“We focus on passing and receiving, running and controlling and one-on-one defending and attacking.  Ball mastery is a key point here,” enthused Dias.

The above-mentioned technical aspects are part of the overall “Four Pillars of Player Development” tool that was designed by Dias and his team.

“Yeah the technical part needs to be complimented with the tactical aspect (roles and responsibilities), the psychological part (player mentality) as well as conditioning (fitness, strength etc.),” added Dias.

The youth division has also previously had a relationship with English Premier League outfit Manchester City. In 2013, Aces trained with the City youth team and even went on to beat their reserves 5-1.

However, as alluded to above, it is proving relatively difficult to ensure that the cream of the crop remain at the club.

“If you ask any kid now whether that wish to play for Aces or Kaizer Chiefs, you are only going to get one obvious reply. In view of this, we attempt to offer a different approach and try to convince them that paying for such a big team at a young age is not advisable,” concluded Dias.

The ultimate aim of the project is to groom youth and hopefully take them all the way to the top one day. With such systems firmly in place, the unearthing of young South African footballing talent looks to be in good hands for the foreseeable future.