Steen­bok di­vulges se­crets to suc­cess

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTHOWAGAE daniel.mothowagae@city­

For more than a decade, Wal­ter Steen­bok has been associated with two of South Africa’s top clubs – Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sun­downs – but not many peo­ple can put a face to the name.

This is be­cause it’s his job as a foot­ball player scout – not him in per­son – that is of­ten re­flected in the com­po­si­tion of the two lo­cal foot­ball pow­er­houses.

Steen­bok, in his sec­ond spell at Chiefs as the head of scout­ing, as­sesses the skills of po­ten­tial sign­ings, and he also eval­u­ates their gen­eral at­ti­tude.

Thanks to the ex­pe­ri­ence he has ac­quired over the years, the 49-year-old has penned The Foot­ball Scout­ing Bi­ble, a book that re­de­fines the art of scout­ing in the lo­cal game.

For­mer Chiefs coach Steve Kom­phela, now with Golden Ar­rows, wrote the fore­word.

The book is split into 11 chap­ters in which Steen­bok gives a prac­ti­cal guide, from the oper­a­tions of scout­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion that comes with it. It also cov­ers women’s foot­ball.

The 224-page guide comes with a sup­ple­men­tary note­book with a ready-made scout­ing tem­plate.

“The idea was to put the [scout­ing] nar­ra­tive in the South African con­text, while us­ing trends in Africa and Europe to write about some­thing that is so dear to my heart – scout­ing,” he told City Press.

“Scout­ing is an area in our game that we have not re­ally ex­ploited. So it was im­por­tant that I leave a legacy,” Steen­bok said.

Baresi, as the scout­ing guru is known among his peers, boasts a unique record of hav­ing coached at all lev­els in the do­mes­tic game, in­clud­ing stints at the now de­funct Benoni Premier United and Ba­sotho Tigers.

Ev­ery story has its own hum­ble beginnings and Steen­bok’s love af­fair with scout­ing started nearly two decades ago.

He had a hand in the scout­ing of Reneilwe “Yeye” Let­sholonyane from lower di­vi­sion side PJ Stars to Benoni Premier United.

Let­sholonyane later turned out for Jomo Cos­mos, Chiefs, Su­perS­port United and, most re­cently, High­lands Park.

The mid­fielder, who is now 38, was part of the Bafana Bafana team that rep­re­sented the coun­try in the Fifa World Cup hosted on these shores in 2010.

But Steen­bok re­fuses to take full credit. In­stead, he puts the em­pha­sis on “a col­lec­tive” when­ever he gives out de­tails on a scout­ing of a par­tic­u­lar player. This point is also high­lighted in the book when he talks about the im­por­tance of get­ting a sec­ond opinion about po­ten­tial de­ci­sions.

This was the case when he was check­ing out one­time Chiefs fan favourite Knowl­edge Mu­sona in 2009 and Sun­downs’ Brazil­ian de­fender Ri­cardo Nasci­mento in 2016.

“Four peo­ple were in­volved in the scout­ing of Mu­sona – Ace Khuse, Ti­nashe Nen­go­masha, Bobby Mo­taung and my­self.

“We opted for Mu­sona at that time be­cause we felt he was stronger and ready, even though we had also spot­ted Khama Bil­liat,” re­called Steen­bok.

“So, it was more of a col­lec­tive ap­proach. Even if you see some­thing [in a player], you still need a sec­ond opinion.

“So we must move away from cre­at­ing celebrity scouts and peo­ple who will al­ways say ‘I spot­ted this and I did this’.”

In Nasci­mento’s case, Steen­bok said the Brazil­ian had four of the five qual­i­ties he was look­ing for, but then Sun­downs coach Pitso Mosi­mane con­vinced him to over­look the miss­ing qual­ity.

“This was an­other ex­am­ple of the im­por­tance of a sec­ond opinion,” Steen­bok pointed out.

He had trav­elled with Mosi­mane to watch Nasci­mento in ac­tion for his for­mer club Académica in Por­tu­gal.

In the sec­ond chap­ter of his book, Steen­bok ad­dresses the ques­tion of why some play­ers flop while play­ing in the top clubs. This is some­thing that sup­port­ers of­ten be­lieve, that not just any player can play for Chiefs, Sun­downs and Or­lando Pi­rates.

“The scout­ing op­er­a­tion is in­formed by lots of fac­tors,” he said. “So scouts are al­ways in­flu­enced by the strength of the league, the cul­ture of the club, the play­ing model, the owner and the sup­port­ers.”

Steen­bok pointed out that big clubs were of­ten where sup­port­ers de­manded in­stant suc­cess.

“Pa­tience for a player at a bot­tom-four team is dif­fer­ent from the one in a top-four team.”

The ap­proach is dif­fer­ent at the youth de­vel­op­ment level, he said.

“You are es­sen­tially look­ing for two things: tech­nique and per­son­al­ity. Per­son­al­ity can in­volve things such as in­tel­li­gence and at­ti­tude.”

He warned, how­ever, that scouts must al­ways have “an open un­der­stand­ing pol­icy that some­times you might not get it right”.

He in­tends to pub­lish a more ad­vanced man­ual next year, which seeks to es­tab­lish scout­ing as one of the pil­lars within foot­ball and coach­ing de­vel­op­ment.

“As we move on, we’ll have a lit­tle bit on data and per­for­mance analysis.”

Apart from hav­ing a vast con­tact data­base, Steen­bok – who holds var­i­ous aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions – ad­vises as­pir­ing scouts to have “the right per­son­al­ity and be hum­ble”.


Wal­ter Steen­bok WELL SPOT­TED Ri­cardo Nasci­mento has proved to be what Mamelodi Sun­downs’ de­fence needed TOP PICK Among the best tal­ents to have been spot­ted for Kaizer Chiefs is Knowl­edge Mu­sona

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