One of the big dilemma’s in South African football is that national tournaments like the Multichoice Diski Challenge and Engen tournaments are expected to help grow South African youth, but the growth of a player has to start at the roots – the day they decide to play football.
With Bafana vision 2022 the desired goal, we caught up with Waleed Abrahams, who recently embarked on a trip to Belgium with the Lion Sports Euro Tour invitational team, to discuss Youth development and his thoughts on the trip.
CapeTownFootball: You had a group of talented youngsters with you in Belgium but is there anything your squad lacked?
Waleed: I think our squad lacked tactical preparation. Our team was boys from all over the Western Cape, so we have various boys from environments being coached in different ways & putting that together is always a challenge to a coach. I would say we mostly played on natural talent & individual ability which worked for us as team collectively since we only had a 10day tour. Mental strength in Europe is a big factor to add to your game & some players have it, some unfortunately cannot make the switch over & adapt but that’s all part of learning & it’s a process we as coaches need to add as part of our development of these young players. Physically the Europeans are always going to be bigger & a bit stronger than us & it’s something those teams use as part of their football.
CapeTownFootball: You managed to get some good results. How did our Cape Town talent compare to Belgium’s?
Waleed: The level in Belgium compared to SA — I would personally say we on par if not a bit better individually since we have more natural ability & natural talent it’s what we blessed with. Collectively as a team these clubs are well prepared & pay attention to every detail when it comes to football. That’s the strength of the Europeans. They make football simple, we as Africans complicate it as we tend to want to do too much. Where the players from Belgium tend to be better than us is the mental & physical preparation, their execution of their individual duties as players, they are tactically very smart, they focus on doing the simple things in football, they always playing for the team..
CapeTownFootball: It’s no secret that Cape Town produces immensely talented footballers, why are they not fulfilling their potential?
Waleed: Discipline is the major factor, also adapting to another country, culture & we tend to get homesick but these small obstacles I see as an excuse. All these boys need to do is play football; the rest is taken care of. If you want it bad enough you will make it work. The mental strength of a player is a huge factor & switching & adapting to your environment quickly is important. We all have a story to tell but when you’re presented with these opportunities many players would die for, you need to make the most of it & make it count as it could change your life or break your life.
CapeTownFootball: From all the different techniques and training methods you’ve seen overseas. How do we take our youth development to the next level?
Waleed: I think we need more programs where we can “coach the coaches” & get the top clubs to share ideas, brain storm on how certain professional clubs do certain things, ways to improve our youth, how these professional clubs go about their daily activities.in This way we empower our coaches & they in turn properly coach our youth. Also have more open training sessions for coaches. We also need more European tours like the one Lion Sports went on. We need to be playing European opposition regularly, not just the PSL clubs but let’s get the exposure to local clubs to & test our youth..
CapeTownFootball: At their important age, making the transition from Under-19 to first team. What’s more important? Winning or playing well?
Waleed: Playing well & development & enjoying the game is much more important. With all these factors winning and enjoying the beautiful game comes naturally. We need to instill values of playing well, doing things correctly & not focus on winning. Winning is a bonus I say. We focus so much on winning that the beautiful game flies out the window from a young age. We forget to enjoy the game. We forget why we really play.