If you want to produce exceptional Bafana stars‚ you have to start at age 5 or 6: Amajita coach

Amajita coach Thabo Senong.
Amajita coach Thabo Senong.
Image: BackPagePix

Amajita coach Thabo Senong says the only way for South Africa to produce footballers exceptionally talented enough to compete at the highest level is to get them into academies from as early as five or six years old.

Senong takes the South African U20 national team to their African Nations Cup third round‚ second leg qualifier against Malawi on Saturday‚ where they must score to have a chance of making it to the continental tournament in Niger next year.

Amajita and Malawi played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg last weekend in Moruleng‚ outside Rustenburg.

Senong said South Africa can only produce young players of the quality of Kylian Mbappé of France‚ Gabriel Jesus of Brazil and Marcus Rashford of England through early development.

“In South Africa we are blessed with a lot of naturally talented boys‚ so the challenge is nurturing them and getting them into academies as early as five to six years old‚” he said.

“The successful youth products at the World Cup in Russia like Gabriel Jesus‚ Marcus Rashford or Kylian Mbappé are a result of early development.

"They started as early as five or six years and they peak around 16 or 17 years in professional football.

"If we can activate our talented players early with good programmes at academies‚ maybe then we can have the best players who are ready at the age of 18 years‚” he said‚ warning that there are no shortcuts to development.

“There are no shortcuts in development; you need to respect the principle of long-term plans. Sometimes it takes about ten years to develop a complete athlete and that also happens in football.

"If you start at five years‚ the athlete will peak at fifteen. But if you start at 13-years-old‚ then you will peak at 23 years and that is the biggest problem in our football.

"We start as late as 13 or 14 years old to put players at academies and that leads to the results where players are peaking at 23 or 24 at professional football.”

Senong said it was important for Amajita to qualify for the Youth Championships next year to give players the experience of competing against quality opposition.

“We want to go back again to these types of tournaments like Afcon‚ Olympics and the World Cup and hopefully do better than we did before.

"It goes back to preparation and number of friendly matches.

"It has been proven that at Afcon and World Cup‚ if you don’t play at least four tough friendly matches you don’t have a chance at all. So‚ preparation is not only training but activating the team with top friendly matches.”

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