Many clubs will most likely give our talented young lions a chance, but are they good enough to withstand the pressure, asks Timothy Molobi.
There seems to be more of a focus on youngsters of late in the Absa Premiership.
Some have already tasted the action, while others are waiting in the wings for their chance to showcase their talent.
While the focus has mostly been on just a few who have already tasted PSL football, a host of them have been promoted to their senior teams.
Wiseman Meyiwa, Lyle Foster and Kobamelo Kodisang are among the young talent looking to impress this season and have hit the ground running. But they are not the only ones expected to grace the local league.
The big question is, is the tide turning towards the youngsters as more coaches show faith in them, or is this just a PR exercise?
Those who have already been given the opportunity have not disappointed and supporters are asking for more.
Now the pressure is on other coaches to follow suit and play them.
Three seasons on, the MultiChoice Diski Challenge has already made its intended impact on the Absa Premiership.
The league allows future prospects to strut their stuff, showing the general public what could be on the horizon in the coming years.
A few young players have received a lot of attention since making their debuts, but are they ready to bloom into the superstars that everyone is expecting them to become?
A quick glance at the recently released squad lists shows that all the clubs have one or more players from their feeder teams.
This augurs well for the league as it is already reaping the rewards of the MultiChoice Diski Challenge league, which is intended to fast-track youngsters’ development.
But the big question is, are these youngsters ready for the bigger stage, or are clubs simply under pressure to promote them?
A few have already shown what they can do and, if their performances are anything to go by, the future of South African football looks great.
The coaches were bold enough to include them in their squad lists, now they need to show confidence in them and throw these players into the deep end. After all, if they are good enough, they should be old enough. Age should not limit their game time or hamper their progress.
It is a great opportunity for these young lions to step into the limelight and prove their worth. They are strong, fit and fast, and have one or two things to show the old guard. They bring the spirit of not giving up no matter the odds as they are hungry for success.
Can they carry the hopes of their clubs, especially when the going gets tough?
Augusto Palacios, the head of development at Orlando Pirates, has commended clubs for this move, saying it is a step in the right direction. He believes it is about time coaches show confidence in these youngsters.
He has no doubt that young South Africans have amazing talent.
“Why is it that, before, when there was no money in football, there used to be more youngsters coming up? How long do we have to wait until we see more 16-year-olds playing in the PSL?” asked Palacios.
He is confident that ever more young players will be given opportunities by their clubs.
“How old was Michael Owen when he played at the World Cup? Why can’t we do the same here?”
Palacios speaks highly of young Pirates striker Foster and says it won’t be long before he is lost to the PSL.
Cautioned against rushing them
The striker already has an assist after Thabo Qalinge finished his cross in the game against Cape Town City a fortnight ago.
The youngster is edging closer to a regular role in the first team squad after twice coming on as a late substitute, and starting against Polokwane City last weekend.
He has been touted as the next best thing after graduating from the Diski Challenge team.
Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela has shown confidence in Meyiwa, and the 17-year-old has stolen headlines by becoming the club’s youngest goalscorer.
Komphela believes there is enough young talent coming up, but cautioned against rushing them unnecessarily.
Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt has Kodisang on his books. The former Platinum Stars player was only 15 when coach Cavin Johnson gave him a taste of top-flight football in the North West side. He looks destined for even greater heights.
Ajax Cape Town are no strangers to promoting youngsters and it should not surprise that their youngest player, 19-year-old Grant Margeman, has already featured four times.
Thabo Maphakisa of Free State Stars and AmaZulu’s Sbusiso Magaqa have tasted PSL football, with one game each under their belt.
Most of the youngsters are still warming the benches waiting for their time to come. But there’s no doubt that, for many of the players on this season’s squad list, the campaign will provide a massive stepping stone to greater things.