THE man behind the formation of the Transnet Football School of Excellence, Ted Dumitru, has welcomed plans by Safa to give the once-popular academy a long-overdue facelift.
Now head of Mamelodi Sundowns' development programme, Dumitru described the move as a step in the right direction to help take South African soccer to greater heights.
Dumitru, who started the school in 1994, said: "It's a wonderful thing for Safa to revive the school, but the first thing is for them to go out there and get the highest possible expertise in the country."
"Coaches cannot do everything alone. This is where other experts like physical trainers, sports scientists, psychologists, nutritionists, physiotherapists and doctors play a role.
"Are good coaches like Mandla Mazibuko and James Mabena still there? When we started the school people from Fifa, CAF and Uefa were there and they commended us.
"The problem is that we live in frightening ignorance. We think the school will solve the problem of South Africa producing quality to represent us internationally.
"We need more youth centres, three to four in each province, to the school. In rugby every high school in the suburbs has become a school of excellence. That concept does not exist in football, which is totally unacceptable. If we don't give football first preference, the dream of a proper sport school will not be fulfilled."
Dumitru's sentiments were echoed by former Excellence general manager Steve Pila, who has volunteered to assist Safa in rebuilding the school.
"The school is a national asset. We must all contribute to its revival because the process will benefit South Africa in the long run. Youngsters from the school used to dominate various junior national teams.
"Top players like Steven Pienaar, Masilo Modubi, Daine Klate, Dillon Sheppard, Brett Evans and Nkosinathi Nhleko featured for national teams and are the products of this institution," Pila said.
Dumitru attributed the near-demise of Excellence to infiltration by certain local clubs who wanted to influence the policies of the school.
"There was a lot of interference by certain clubs that I can't mention. We also had a problem of foreign ideas in the school. German and Dutch coaching methods are different from local ones. It is also wrong to copy the models of teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.
"The best development programmes in the world, as recommended by Uefa president Michel Platini to his clubs, are in Brazil. We have to follow the Brazilian programmes."
The revival of the academy has been prioritised by the new Safa leadership as one of their legacy projects for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
"We are starting the entire process, applying for funding from Fifa through the Goal Project to refurbish the school," said Safa vice-president Mandla Mazibuko.
"The school needs a facelift to take it back to the glory days when it was the base of about 80percent of our junior national teams. We will also be refurbishing the soccer fields and gymnasium. It is embarrassing that the school does not even have a proper laboratory.
"There are funds from Fifa for such projects. All we need do is to submit an application. Our aim is to see all our junior national teams' players based there. The school should have been used as a base camp for some of the the 32 teams that will take part in the World Cup in June."
The school was established in 1994 and other players who were nurtured there include Bernard Parker, Gerald Sibeko, Jeffrey Ntuka, Bernard Parker, Shaun Potgieter, Dominic Isaacs, Zitha Mofokeng, Andile Cele, John Nkambule and Rufus Mokoti.
With Fifa expected to bump several millions of rands into the school, the future looks bright for the institution and it looks set to become one of the best academies in the world.