Cape Town - SAFA’s new technical director Neil Tovey has wasted no time speaking about the importance of high performance centres and academies in the fight to improve development in South African football, but the reality is that Tovey will need to be patient.
In October of 2013 SAFA announced plans for a new state-of-the-art academy to be constructed in Durban. The initiative, called the Hoy Park Academy, was due to house 88 youth players and provide a breeding ground for the best footballers in the region to make the step up to senior football. Major announcements revealed the need for specialised coaches to embed a South African philosophy in young players, and there was a renewed sense of optimism in South African football that coincided with the election of Danny Jordaan as SAFA President.
Hoy Park was due to be the guinea pig as plans for every province to unveil such academies were announced.
But a year and nine months later, Hoy Park is still struggling to get off the ground.
Issues over the location resulted in a venue change, and the King’s Park Sporting Precinct was identified as the new plot for the academy. That came with issues of its own, as local club Berea Rovers and Hoy Park Management clashed over the use of the land. In the meantime, England’s Liverpool Football Club had come on board as a partner of the project – an announcement that came at the 2014 Soccerex African Forum – almost a year after original plans for the academy were announced. In that time there had been no developments in terms of construction.
Liverpool have since severed themselves from the partnership and have taken occupancy at Danville Park, home of Virginia United Football Club, where they are unravelling plans to shape an academy of their own on South African shores.
That has left SAFA, Hoy Park Management and the city of Durban responsible for the SAFA academy.
The good news is that the plans are still on. The bad news is that the first phase of development is only expected to be completed 14 months from now. That takes us through to around September 2016, when a full high performance centre, one full size natural football field and three synthetic surfaces are expected to be fully operational.
The accommodation for the 88 children is expected to be ready by the end of the year.
"It has been very frustrating, but they say that good things come with time," Hoy Park Management’s Managing Director Carlos Catalino told Sport24 on Tuesday.
"There has been a lot of red tape to get through."
Catalino confirmed that floodlights had already been erected and that work on the ground at the cycling velodrome – another component of the academy – had begun.
When the project is completed the academy will boast four synthetic surfaces and three turf pitches. The estimated cost of the project is R300 million.
While there has been constant communication between Hoy Park Management, the city of Durban and the Department of Sports and Recreation throughout this process a final agreement between the parties was only signed in the last couple of weeks.
"There have been no delays in the development of the Hoy Park Academy as the agreement between Hoy Park Management and eThekwini Municipality was only signed last week," eThekwini Municipality’s Communications Head, Tozi Mthethwa, told Sport24.
"The City looks forward to the completion of the development as the project will not only benefit the City but will develop some of the country’s future best players.
"The City and the Hoy Park Management have been engaged in a
series of serious discussions and planning since the announcement of the
development was made.
"The City and Hoy Park Management had also been engaged in
the drafting of the agreement and ascertaining that it met all the necessary legal
requirements. Therefore, there have been no delays as due processes had to be
followed prior to the agreement being signed last week."
SAFA Head of Communications Dominic Chimhavi said that it was imperative for South Africa to have such academies, and said that the appointment of Tovey was a step in the right direction.
"We have seen an overwhelming positive response from the public to the appointment of Neil Tovey," said Chimhavi.
"This is exactly the job of the new Technical Director ... to get all of these academies up and running."