School football is at the heart of successful grassroots development. This is the sentiment of Safa Chris Hani president, Sandile Mata, who spoke to The Rep after a successful regional campaign last season.
“It would be dishonest not to talk about how we have failed to ensure that junior leagues are being played in LFA football”
“What Seven Stars achieved is not an accident. The group of boys in that team are the same ones who were part of the Maria Louw soccer team that represented the province at the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup in 2019.
“Schools football is important. It was the same when Bulelani (from Ezibeleni) were doing well in soccer, Holy Kings dominated the regional league. When it was Rubusana, Roman Callies were the best team, Lingelihle High in Ilinge, New Nation was the best team. Freemantle High from Emalahleni was also instrumental in the success of Amavarara,” said Mata.
The president has the firm conviction that young players have catapulted the region to the success of recent years, which is the objective of provincial, regional and local football structures.
“We had the youngest team there (at the playoffs). Currently we have the highest number of players registered with Safa in the province behind Nelson Mandela Bay. We were made proud by Oyisa Marhasi from Cumakalo FC in eNgcobo who broke not only national but international records last year at the U17 Cosafa Women’s Championships. Maria Louw will participate in the first-ever national schools langue.”
While there is much to celebrate in these recent achievements, Mata refused to rest on his laurels. “It would be dishonest not to talk about how we have failed to ensure that junior leagues are being played in LFA football. All of these leagues around the country are supposed to be by Safa through the Fifa Legacy Funding. Currently we are focused on the regional league and we are not doing justice to this crucial element of development of football in our zones, local football associations and regions,” said Mata.
The success of Seven Stars now means that the region has four teams in provincial competitions. They are joining Amavarara FC in the ABC Motsepe League while Eluheweni Ladies and Cumakalo FC are competing in the Sasol Women’s Soccer League.
Mata said he had full confidence that the Stars could also attain GladAfrica status. “It is a very talented group. I believe with funding they can attain promotion to a hire level. All they need is a sponsor. That is why I always encourage all the teams in the region to apply for lotto funding,” he said.