Seen as the lifeblood of the main team, the Kaizer Chiefs youth development academy has produced a number of players who went on to help Amakhosi to a respectable second-place finish in the 2000/2001 Premier League season.
Explaining the importance of a strong youth development academy, Amakhosi managing director Kaizer Motaung said: “Development forms a critical part in the success of any team anywhere in football. In fact, Manchester United and Ajax Amsterdam have proved that a strong, well-structured development programme will benefit the team in the long term.
“That is why we at Kaizer Chiefs also put so much emphasis on development. We have always had successful development programmes in he past and players like Doctor Khumalo, Ntsie Maphike, Trevor Mthimkhulu were products of our youth programmes.”
Academy head coach Farouk Khan is happy with progress thus far and the fact that the academy has produced quality players like Nhlanhla Kubeka and Gerald Sibeko, who are already making inroads in the first team. Kubeka is tipped as the next Lucas Radebe due to his style of play similar to that of the Bafana Bafana and Leeds United captain.
Another youngster Thabiso Malatsi is slowly making progress and Khan believes the youngsters would probably earn a first team place next season. “He is a great utility player but coach Muhsin Ertugral felt time was not yet right for the youngster to be introduced in the first team.”
No less than 10 Chiefs players featured in the 2001 Super Bowl in different colours. All these players came through the youth Amakhosi ranks and most of them were loaned out to get regular match practice.
Five Amakhosi players featured in Maritzburg City’s 1-0 victory against Ajax Cape Town with Patrick Thwala scoring for City victory. The other players are midfielder Tshepo Mashishi, Monde Kubekha, Nsizwa Mnyingwa, both strikers and goalkeeper Lawrence Ncala.
In the match between Sporting FC and Classic Amakhosi had three players appearing for Sporting. Zaid Omar, Fabien Brown and Alfred Hoskins all hail from Chiefs.
Nhlanhla Mathebula, who featured for African Wanderers, also hails from the Chiefs Village.
Rufus Mokoti was on the winning side as SuperSport United trounced Wits University 4-1 while Lucky Maselesele was in the Manning Rangers lineup. Maselesele will be returning to Chiefs for next season.
Meanwhile, Gift Setai, Sydwel Makubu and Ryan Hartslief are our Vaal Ambassadors.
The recent launch of the PSL reserve league also provided the academy with an opportunity to measure their strength against other opponents. The youngsters finished overall winners of the reserve league ahead of Orlando Pirates and Sundowns.
“The reserve league made it possible to expose our youth to the highest level of competition,” says Khan. “Playing against top experienced players has given our youth mental toughness and they gained more tactical maturity.”
This has also provided coach Khan with the opportunity to measure the overall performance of the youngsters when pitted against the best. “Without the reserve league it is practically impossible for the players to realize their full potential. The reserve league is also important for the rehabilitation of injured first team players,” says Khan.
“The academy youngsters need to be exposed in the highest level of competition to grow mentally and tactically,” he says.
The Amakhosi reserve finished top of the log with 30 points from 14 matches. The team also showed a high scoring rate with 30 goals and a good defensive record after conceding just 17 goals.
“I have introduced coaching methodology which is among the best in the world adapted to local conditions,” says Khan. “We have seen positive results by beating teams with players like Benjamin Mwaruwari, Nkosinathi Nhleko and Carlo Scott while using players from 15 to 19 years of age.”
The Chiefs academy has also made significant contribution in the South African national junior teams. Damien Corneli and Buti Sithole featured at a recent national under-16 tournament in Portugal and the team went on to beat Australia 3-1 and drew with Portugal.
The future looks even bright for some of the youngsters. Simphiwe Mbambo is one youngster rated highly by coach Khan. “Simphiwe is maturing rapidly and I think he could be promoted to the first team very soon. There are a number of good players but I do not think they will make the cut as yet because of age. Most of them are still very young.”
Another youngster with a promising future is 18-year-old defender Gugu Msiza. The youngster has shown great concentration and displayed a high work rate in the past. Others who have captured the eye of coach Khan are Cheeseman Mkizi, Cyril Zuma and Thokozani Msiza.
“Coach Terror Sephoa is doing a great job with the under-13 and in the next four or five years we could produce the best talent from this age group. Ryder Mofokeng is also doing an excellent job with the under-17s and under-20s.”
But of course all these would be impossible without strong financial muscles and the arrival of Nestle, the official sponsors for the youth academy, was a major boost for the academy.
“Without a sponsor it would be difficult to add value to the youth development programme,” says Khan, who has been with the academy for four years. “Nestle have made it possible for us to raise to a higher level of development and competition.”