Johannesburg - South African football academies and other development structures should up their ante in instilling discipline and self-control in young players.
SA Under-20 midfielder Thabo Cele told City Press a few days ago that ill-discipline was stunting the growth of the game in the country.
“We have a lot of talented players in South Africa, but most of them fall along the wayside without realising their full potential due to ill-discipline,” observed the 20-year-old in South Korea recently.
Cele, who recently signed with Portuguese giants Benfica, said he was lucky that discipline was instilled in him while he was at the KwaZulu-Natal Academy.
“Madam [Gugu Marawa, chief operating director] and Carlos Catalino [managing director] used to sit us down and take us through the nitty-gritty aspects of discipline. They gave us several examples of highly talented players they had worked with in the past who did not make it because of ill-discipline”.
He said raw talent meant nothing without discipline, self-control and ambition.
Cele, who started kicking the ball around in the streets of Section G in KwaMashu, was initially spotted by Nduna Academy before moving to local side KwaMashu All Stars in the ABC Motsepe League.
“Like every township boy who grows up playing football, I have always dreamt of playing international football. I am quite pleased to be with the Under-20 national team, even though I joined them late,” he said.
“Now that I have joined Benfica, my immediate dream is to play in the Champions League,” said the player who shares an apartment with two team-mates in Lisbon.
“There are two other team-mates who stay just across the road from us...a Brazilian and one from Guinea Bissau”.
Cele said that, since joining Benfica in August, the most difficult period for him was in November and December, when it got cold. But he had been warned of the conditions, so he was prepared.
He said he was not disappointed when coach Thabo Senong pulled him out at half-time in Amajita’s second Fifa Under-20 World Cup match against Italy.
Sky is the limit
“I was not playing well. For some reason, I could not get my game going. So I was not disappointed at all when the coach replaced me. In fact, this is a sign that I should work harder,” he said.
He acknowledged that the team played much better after he had been replaced.
“After playing better in our 2-1 loss to Japan, we started badly against Italy. We couldn’t string our passes together and lost possession in critical areas”.
The sky is the limit for the young man from KwaMashu and, if his utterances and the grounding he received at the KwaZulu-Natal Academy are anything to go by, he will reach for the stars with his feet firmly on the ground.