S'Busiso Mseleku

SA can learn from Chelsea

2013-05-24 13:02
Sport24 columnist S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
A visit to English Premiership side Chelsea Football Club last week proved to be a real eye opener.

What I found to be most impressive was how seriously the club takes its development programme.

Chelsea have junior teams ranging from the Under-9s up to the Under-21 squad which is the last stage before the senior team that play in the English Premiership.

The junior teams share the same training facility at the Cobham Training Centre with the senior team just using different training fields. There are 34 training fields in all and the club boasts 200 coaches for their junior teams.

Steve Winnet, one of the junior teams’ coaches who was recently on a world-wide tour looking for players to take part in the newly-established Samsung-Chelsea FC Dream The Blues programme, summed it all up when he told me this week: Chelsea always look for world-class players.”

This was an answer to the question how do players qualify to be selected for the junior teams.

The centre has world-class facilities that include a pitch similar to the one at Stamford Bridge - soil, grass and all - at the senior team’s training field as well as well-equipped education and training centres for the junior teams.

The grass is cut to different lengths at all the 34 training fields depending on the age of the team that trains on each.

How much more scientific can one be?

It was marvelous to watch Winnet and colleague Oliver Woodall, take the 10 young players from all over the world through their paces at the centre last week.

The training was made to be fun with a number of interesting exercises such as when he called names of senior Chelsea players, the youngsters were expected to display a certain move.

“Terry!” And the players would jump and display an imaginary defensive header similar to the movement of captain, John Terry.

A shout of “Torres” saw the youngsters falling on one knee and pointing up with one arm, a famous celebration move by the Spaniard striker Fernando Torres.

And a number of other fun exercises before engaging in short one-on-one matches.

What a pity that this programme is not a talent scouting exercise but as Winnet explained: “A once in a lifetime experience of coming here, make friends and take home some valuable lessons that will last a lifetime.”

And the organisation goes right up to the senior team where tickets for last Sunday's final Premiership home game against Everton, at the 42 000-seater Stamford Bridge, were sold out a long time ago.

The Thursday before the game, three pairs of kits were already hanging in all the right places inside the change room for all the 23 players who will be in the team for the Sunday encounter.

South African clubs can learn a thing or two on development from Chelsea. Need one say that development has been Mzansi soccer’s Achilles heel for ages.

And then there is that scourge of age-cheating which caused one of the giants, Orlando Pirates, to close down their development programme.

Will we ever get it right in South Africa?

A lot of commitment and selflessness is required from those in charge of our football if we are to reach the levels of the likes of Chelsea, Barcelona and Ajax Amsterdam, to mention just three.

It is achievable it just needs commitment and investment.
S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

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Read more on:    chelsea  |  s’busiso mseleku  |  soccer

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