Give the kids a chance

Sundowns should turn to their gifted youngsters to find success

IT IS SAD to think that some of the Mamelodi Sundown youngsters playing at this week’s Gauteng Future Champions International tournament will never play in the senior team.

Throughout this week at the Future Champions tournament in Soweto, Sundown’ under-17s boys have mesmerised their opponents, finishing top of group D with maximum points to qualify for tomorrow’s semi-finals, in which they meet tournament favourites Atletico Mineiro.

For years Sundowns have resorted to buying big-name players in the hope of getting silverware on home soil and conquering Africa. But they have now gone six years without a trophy, which is embarrassing considering the money they spend every season is enough to feed an entire nation of starving kids.

So why not promote more youngsters and play them a bit more than usual? Not that they don’t, but it’s also not enough.

It probably wouldn’t hurt giving some youngsters a run, and recent history has shown that some of the players the club has developed have done well in the senior team at the highest level in South Africa – the likes of Siyanda Xulu and Jabulani Shongwe. Right-back Percy Tau has recently made a good impression in the first team, scoring a goal in the club’s 4-1 victory over Golden Arrows in the Nedbank Cup.

Sundowns have a good development structure and their team currently playing at the Future Champions is proof of that. Yesterday they swept aside Indian team Royal Wahingdoh to finish top of the group on nine points, thanks to goals from Notha Ngcobo, Mpumelelo Hlatshwayo and Tshepiso Mbongwa.

Going into that game against the Indians, Sundowns had already qualified for the semi-finals, having registered victories over English team Sunderland and a USA select team.

Sundowns, watched closely by coaches Shawn Bishop and Sam Mbatha, scored eight goals and conceded just one in their three matches to show how much of a threat they could be in the semis.

The other South African teams competing in the tournament SuperSport United, Jomo Cosmos and Sunward Park High School have had contrasting fortunes. A lot was expected of Ricardo Katza’s SuperSport side, but they could not match the international teams they were up against. On Monday the young Matsatsantsa boys were trounced 5-2 by Brazilians Mineiro, who have won the competition twice before. SuperSport were expected to show signs of improvement against K-Stars the next day, but a 2-0 defeat to Kalusha Bwalya’s team ended their hopes of making the knockout phase of the 16-team competition.

Cosmos, who were in group A, did not fare quite as badly. They lost their first match 1-0 to Congolese club CESD La Djiri, but picked up four points in their last two group matches. Sunward squandered a goal lead to lose 2-1 to defending champions Club Tijuana on the opening day of the competition, and then managed to play to a goalless draw with Qatar’s Aspire Academy, which is quite a good result for the East Rand-based school.

Cosmos and Sunward are unhappy to be missing out on the semis, but they can hold their heads high after showing great promise against powerful international opponents. Now all eyes will be on Sundowns to make South Africa proud in the semi-final, while the clubs who could not make the final four will go into play-offs to determine which teams finish in positions five to 16.

In the other semi, Tijuana play against La Djiri.

Future Champions Gauteng 2014,Soweto,SA

TUSSLE: Eijingmut Lyngdoh of Wahingdoh, left, and Lovers Malatsi of Sundown during the Future Champions Gauteng tournament yesterday.PICTURE: NTOMBI NTEKELEIJUSTUS MEDIA

  • We had a wonderful football and cultural experience in Gauteng. The tournament and activities were very well organized and we found everyone involved extremely helpful and accommodating. We have all returned home with fantastic memories of our time in South Africa, both on and off the pitch, and have made many new friends as a result of the trip. I hope that we are invited to participate in future tournaments.

    Everton Academy Head Coach
  • The experience both on and off the field for our players during the Future Champions tournament in Gauteng was life-enriching for all those who participated. We were privileged enough to win this edition but what will be bringing us back in future is the cross-cultural education our players receive from spending time with athletes from all over the world. They are human beings before they are football players and enriching them with other cultures is as rewarding as the experience they receive on the field.

    Club Tijuana Director of Football
  • After twenty years of experiencing tournaments around the globe, Future Champions is hands down the best organized, well run International Tournament we have ever participated in. Bringing teams from dozens of different countries provided our boys exposure to cultural diversity they only read about in textbooks. It’s amazing how sport can be the cultural link that provides the opportunity to interact with each other and discover that our global community is a bit smaller than they realized. We had a football and cultural experience that will be cherished for the rest of our lives.

    Director of USYSA Select
  • For us to compete in Future Champions is much more than playing a series of matches. It is an opportunity to compete and contrast our level against the best teams from around the world and the possibility of living in another culture and environment for an unforgettable week, learning about the history of the fight for human rights.

    Director of Aspire Academy
  • The addition of a girls’ competition this year is a natural expansion for what has become a hugely popular event. Over and above the football, the players are also exposed to life-skills courses and HIV/AIDS awareness that could end up saving their lives in the future. We have had an amazing partnership with the Gauteng Province over the last decade and we thank each and every stakeholder for making the Future Champions Gauteng campaign such a huge success

    Tournament director