25 June 2014
A South African under-19 side will lock horns with junior teams representing some of the giants of international club football at the first edition of a new youth tournament kicking off in Durban on 31 July, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government announced on Tuesday.
The Durban Under-19 International Football Tournament, backed and jointly organised by KwaZulu-Natal, the City of Durban and the South African Football Association, will take place annually in Durban for at least the next three years.
The province said in a statement that a specially formed South African under-19 national side, under the watchful eye of former Bafana Bafana coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba, would compete in the tournament along with teams from Santos (Brazil), Boca Juniors (Argentina), Everton (England), Benfica (Portugal), Feyenoord (Netherlands) and Roma (Italy).
The format departs from the traditional standard, under which junior international teams compete at under-17 and under-20 level.
Youth development ‘the cornerstone’
Mashaba, possibly the most experienced junior tactician in the country, said that youth development was the cornerstone of every successful footballing nation.
“It is crucial. Without the proper structures in place then you cannot home to bring through players with the correct technical ability and the right mentality to succeed,” he said. “We have faced enormous challenges in the past, but it is something at Safa [the South African Football Association] that we are trying to put right.
“Hopefully with this new initiative we are now on the right path to that successful development structure.”
Looking towards Russia 2018
Mashaba said the 2014 Durban Under-19 International Football Tournament could be a stepping-stone in the careers of players hoping to represent South Africa at the Fifa World Cup in Russia in 2018.
“This is an overdue tournament for this age-group. It comes at the right time. These are the building blocks for our future senior national team,” he said. “As we work toward Russia, these are the players to take us there.
“We want the public to give these young guys the support and courage to realise their potential, because by the time Russia comes, they will have gone through all the channels, including the  Olympics.”
‘Heading in the right direction’
Farouk Khan – whose Stars of Africa Academy has produced South African internationals such as Tokelo Rantie, May Mahlangu and Tefu Mashamaite – said South Africa had a long way to go to catch up with the likes of Brazil and Spain in terms of youth development, but that initiatives such as this meant the country was heading in the right direction.
“It is competitions such as the 2014 Durban Under-19 International Football Tournament that will help South Africa to accelerate its progress in the sphere, as well as the new development plans of Safa that will see more activity for the junior national sides,” he said.
Durban’s Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium, a training venue for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, and Princess Magogo Stadium, a Premier Soccer League (PSL) venue, will host the tournament’s group stage matches.
The semi-finals will take place at King Zwelithini Stadium, another PSL and 2010 Fifa World Cup training venue, while the Moses Mabhida Stadium, with the iconic arch that was one of the most memorable images of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, will host the final.