R3m boost for SA football school

14 January 2011

Fifa has donated R3-million (US$437 655) towards reviving South Africa’s Football School of Excellence, which was once a breeding ground for top-quality players who went on to join the country’s national squad, Bafana Bafana.

The school was set up in Elandsfontein, east of Johannesburg in 1994, and is run by the South African Football Association (Safa).

Fifa’s donation will come from its Goal Project funding initiative, which helps national football associations around the world establish centres, natural and artificial pitches, and schools that develop players of the Beautiful Game.

Steven Pienaar

Over the years, Safa’s school has produced some of the country’s best football players – one of whom is Steven Pienaar, who now plays for English Premier League club Everton (although a move to Tottenham Hotspur appears to be on the cards) and South Africa’s national team.

Safa said it hopes the proceeds from Fifa will help the school improve its finances and leadership so that it can once more produce top-quality football stars.

“In the past few years we had a problem where the school was no longer attracting quality youngsters, players who would do well for our junior national teams,” said Safa’s deputy president, Mandla Mazibuko.

‘Everything is back on track’

But, said Mazibuko, there have been some recent improvements. “Everything is back on track at the school. We had trials all over the country in 2010. We are now going for quality again.”

Safa chief Leslie Sedibe said: “If you look at a number of players who went through the School of Excellence, they have done very well. They were well developed, and that is what we want to concentrate on.”

The school – which offers grades eight to 12 – currently has 112 pupils, seven teachers and four coaches. Safa is hoping to increase the number of instructors to seven to improve the coach-player ratio.

Money needed

Safa says it will need a total of R80-million (around US$11.6-million) to fully transform the academy. “We will apply for Fifa’s R3-million grant every year until the school becomes a state-of-the-art facility,” Mazibuko said.

Fifa’s 2011 contribution will be used to upgrade the school’s gym, kitchen, dormitories, administration and coaches’ block, and fields. Extra computers with internet connectivity will be set up in the library to enhance the school’s academic support system.

Safa plans to invite overseas football experts to hold workshops at the school to groom the budding stars and prepare them to represent South Africa at future Fifa World Cups.

The county’s Department of Sport and Recreation will donate table tennis and pool tables to keep the pupils entertained off the pitch. The department’s 2010 legacy division has also committed to establishing a medical centre at the school, which will give pupils access to a psychologist.

First published by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com – get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service.