'More should be done for the junior squads'

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Bloemfontein Celtic coach Khabo Zondo has called for proper development programmes for the country's junior national teams.

Like many other South Africans with a passion for soccer, Zondo said the dismal performance of the junior national teams was a cause for concern.

He said it was important for the junior national teams to have regular training camps and games, without having to wait for an official fixture.

In this interview, the articulate Zondo (KZ) talked about a wide range of issues with Sowetan sports journalist Ramatsiyi Moholoa (RM).

RM: It looks like the colour green is in your blood, you have worked with clubs like Tembisa Classic, Mamelodi Sundowns, Golden Arrows, Celtic and, of course, Bafana Bafana.

KZ: That's true, considering that even the national team are also using green colours. It is a coincidence, but the good thing is that I like the football those teams play. My blood is even greener at Celtic, where everybody has been very supportive.

RM: The move to Celtic, how did it come about and were you surprised when the club management offered you the job?

KZ: I would not say I was surprised, because it was not the first time that the Celtic top brass had approached me to take over the coaching reins.

I was not really thinking about it because there was talk about the likes of Farouk Khan. Celtic are a great club and I'm enjoying my job.

RM: Celtic have multitudes of passionate supporters. Does thatnot put you under pressure to win at all times?

KZ: All the clubs need positive results, which encourages the winning mentality of everybody in the clubs, from the players, technical staff and officials.

Every club plays for their supporters, whether they are 50 or 10000-strong. We have passionate supporters at Celtic, who keep us on our toes. Naturally, you can't win everything, but our supporters are very understanding. They can see that when the team do well, we appreciate their support.

RM: What mandate did you get from Celtic's management when you joined the club at the beginning of the season?

KZ: It is a simple one, that in the three seasons that I have signed with the club, I should deliver one or two major trophies.

The first thing is to assemble a solid team for the future for the club and to challenge for honours, we really need a more competitive team.

RM: You are employed on full-time basis by Celtic, but on the other hand you also have a job as part-time assistant coach of Bafana Bafana. How do you handle the two jobs?

KZ: It's not a problem for me, since I know that I have to focus on Celtic when there is nothing happening with Bafana Bafana.

I prioritise the things I do, like I did not go to Europe for the Bafana Bafana game against Italy on Wednesday night.

We have enough personnel within the technical staff. I must say it's a great thing to be part of the Bafana Bafana set-up.

RM: What is it like working with Carlos Alberto Parreira as coach of Bafana Bafana?

KZ: He's an open-minded person, we learn a lot from him, but the other thing is that we also come with our own experience.

His input is good, there are things you will like, but there are also those you will dislike. The most important thing is cooperation.

There are also times when he will ask you how you do things at club level where there are certain unique challenges that we are faced with.

RM: In the past, there was the concern that the so-called big clubs in South Africa were ignoring home-grown talent, opting for unknown coaches from elsewhere in the world.

We now see that Orlando Pirates have appointed former Moroka Swallows and Dynamos striker Owen Da Gama as head coach, what is your take?

KZ: What else can one ask for? Until then, we will continue looking outside for coaches, and getting the unknowns to lead our clubs.

Pirates have done a great thing by employing Owen. Let me also applaud Mamelodi Sundowns for getting Gordon (Igesund).

RM: Is it true that Free State Stars chairman Mike Mokoena and yourself are related?

KZ: Yeah, we are somehow related.

RM: There is concern among many South Africans about the poor performance of our junior national teams, because there seems to be no direction.

At times some of the junior national teams do not even have a single training camp in four months. As somebody who onceworked as a coach of the junior national teams, what do you think is the problem?

KZ: The first problem is that we are looking at the end product, which is the result. That is killing our football.

Look at the Under-23s, they are not well looked after. Steve (Komphela, the coach) should be attending the training sessions of all the clubs on a regular basis to monitor the performance of players and also have discussions with the clubs.

We can blame Steve, but the problem is that he has one week to work with the players, unlike us coaches at the clubs who are with those boys on a daily basis.

Right now you don't know the programme of the Under-17s and Under-20s. We need to have regular camps for the junior national teams. The problem is that nothing, but nothing, happens for months when the junior teams are eliminated from continental or global competitions.

We cannot expect to have a great Bafana Bafana squad if the junior teams are not looked after. We need to come up with a proper programme for the juniors.