The PSL ‘year of the kids’ looms

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT - MAZOLA MOLEFE

IT WAS the great Matt Busby who said: “If you are good enough, you are old enough.”

And PSL coaches are mak­ing that mantra their own as they pin their hopes on some of South Africa’s young tal­ent this sea­son. When Kaizer Chiefs host reign­ing league cham­pi­ons Bid­vest Wits at FNB Sta­dium tonight, at least three of th­ese sen­sa­tional teenagers will have an­other chance to give the kind of per­for­mance that would make Busby much pleased were he still alive.

Wise­man Meyiwa, now the youngest ever Amakhosi debu­tant at 17, Reeve Frosler (19) and his Wits team-mate Kobamelo Kodisang (18) will line up for their re­spec­tive teams in this Absa Pre­mier­ship clash with much more aware­ness of their abil­ity than ever be­fore.

Meyiwa, for one, had an in­tro­duc­tion to pro­fes­sional foot­ball that he will never forget – scor­ing the sec­ond goal in Chiefs’ 2-0 win over Cape Town City on Wed­nes­day. Frosler had to step up last sea­son when the more ex­pe­ri­enced right­back Nazeer Al­lie suf­fered a frac­tured toe, while Kodisang was only 15 when coach Cavin John­son gave him a taste of topflight foot­ball at Plat­inum Stars, a side he left two years later to join Wits as a free agent in July.

“I can’t imag­ine play­ing for Chiefs at 17,” said Amakhosi coach Kom­phela, him­self a for­mer Chiefs player, this week. “Un­be­liev­able. I am get­ting goose bumps just talk­ing about it. It’s crazy. It has been a while in SA foot­ball where you hear that par­ents had to be called in to sign a pro­fes­sional con­tract be­cause the player is a mi­nor. We had to call in his (Meyiwa’s) mom to the of­fice to do so when we took the de­ci­sion to reg­is­ter the player.”

The Chiefs mid­fielder and his two youth in­ter­na­tional coun­ter­parts, Frosler and Kodisang, have all played at age-group World Cups, with Meyiwa fea­tur­ing at both the Un­der-17 and Un­der-20 com­pe­ti­tions re­cently. Kom­phela was quick to cau­tion that his teenage su­per­star should be pro­tected, but scor­ing on de­but has made that a lit­tle bit tricky see­ing that Meyiwa has proven what kind of dy­na­mite, no mat­ter the size and age of the pack­age, he can be.

“What led us to the de­ci­sion to play him was be­cause of the qual­ity he gives,” Kom­phela said. “The boy is fear­less, you can ask his team-mates. Some­times when he is on the train­ing ground he is like a 30-year-old, very ag­gres­sive. He is not shaky, even in the match on Wed­nes­day. When you have (Wil­lard) Kat­sande, Mido (Ge­orge Maluleka) and Meyiwa, if they go for a chal­lenge and you get the same feel, then I don’t look at age. I look at what it is that we want. Can he press the ball? Is he strong enough to stick a foot in? He is con­fi­dent in all of that.”

It’s not just Chiefs and Wits who are show­ing faith in young play­ers this sea­son, which could very well be the year of the kids. Sure, Ajax Cape Town has a whole model go­ing of pick­ing from their youth academy, pro­mot­ing to the se­nior team and then sell­ing them to big­ger clubs lo­cally and abroad. But the PSL’s so-called top sides are tak­ing risks, too.

Or­lando Pirates pro­moted 17-yearold Lyle Foster in­stead when striker Tendai Ndoro sur­pris­ingly signed for Saudi Ara­bian club Al-Faisaly just be­fore the trans­fer win­dow closed last month.

Su­per­Sport United have con­tin­ued to in­tro­duce Te­boho Mokoena (20), who has been joined into first-team foot­ball by Sipho Mbule (19).

“It’s be­come a uni­ver­sal phe­nom­e­non all over the world,” Kom­phela ex­plained. “The game is get­ting highly tac­ti­cal and very fast. And you know that the faster peo­ple are the young ones, so you have to give them the op­por­tu­nity. Look at the Ger­many team that won the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup this year, a very young team, but fairly ca­pa­ble. They still have their se­nior team. What is hap­pen­ing now is good for Stuart (Bax­ter, the Bafana Bafana coach) and it is good for the fu­ture. Th­ese are the small steps we need to ben­e­fit from in fu­ture.”

@su­per­journo

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