With a week before the 2015 FIFA World Cup U-17, the South African Football Association (SAFA) caught up with Gladwyn White, member of the National Executive Committee and Head of Delegation to Amajimbos.
Here follows their full interview:
SAFA: HOD, thank you for speaking to us. You must be very proud of this team and the accomplishments they have reached in just over a year?
GW: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Yes! Indeed, it has been a long journey. I was extremely fortunate to be entrusted (by the President) with the responsibility for this particular assignment. We have had proud and priceless relationships built in the camp from day one. Very few people gave us a chance to proceed beyond expectations. Our good story started way back in June 2014 with camps in Gaborone and Maseru under frozen conditions and extremely low temperatures. We struggled against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam with a stalemate draw, but managed to finish the job in the return leg. After dealing with Egypt, it was always going to be a difficult task to conquer the rest of the continent particularly the West, North and Central parts of it, but we managed.
SAFA: We are counting down to the kick off of the 2015 FIFA World Cup U-17, are you nervous about how the team will perform?
GW: When we started our story, we termed it “The Road to Niger” and when we finally got on that road, the tune changed to “The Road to Chile”. We found ourselves in the most difficult group of the 2015 CAN, which consisted of Ivory Coast (defending African Champions by then), Mali and Cameroon. Being on the world stage for the first time can be intimidating at times; however, one can always look back and make some relevant references of how you survived to be where you are. We are here on merit after adequately and amicably dealt with Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Nigeria (the nemesis of African Football). These boys have big hearts and are always ready to fight for what they deserve. We’re here to compete with the other 23 countries and not to be the 24th country.
SAFA: In your opinion, what does the tournament mean for the future of South African football?
GW: We are at that stage where every South African will be able to make a reference to this team, after a couple of years moving into the unknown future. The experience of competing at the highest level would benefit the players’ profiles; as it would open real possibilities for their respective careers. Once those “rare” international career opportunities are explored, then South African football will benefit immensely. This crop of players will then present an immediate pool for the levels above their category.
SAFA: The South Africa Football Association is working on what is called Vision 2022, please explain to us what this vision is and what the prospects of this team succeeding in the world cup means for the Association?
GW: SAFA’s ‘7 Streams of Success’ are:
1. “Develop and entrench a uniform South African National Football Philosophy.
2. Build rich and robust talent identification and development pipeline that starts at U13 at a Local Football Association (LFA) level.
3. Build and administer a comprehensive national competitions framework, built on a foundation of licensed and developed clubs.
4. Train and deploy sufficient coaches to create a 1:20 ratio of coach to players (100,000 coaches in ten years or 10,000 per annum).
5. Upgrade football infrastructure and administration at all levels.
6. Identify and utilize the best technology at all levels.
7. Utilize the best researched and most up to date practice of Sports Science and medicine to ensure full development of players.”
The success of this team came in very fast; however, every good thing coming their way is very much appreciated. Being the first ever to qualify for such a big stage, this team can be accepted as the heritage, pride and the future of the South African Football.
SAFA: What do you think awaits this group of players, post the world cup?
GW: I am only skeptic about one thing; once these boys sign their pro-contract, then the trouble will start. Clubs won’t avail them as often as they do now. This crop of players work for each other and are progressing as a team and we do not necessarily rely on individual stars. This is the biggest stage for them to navigate their desired international careers by impressing scouts.
SAFA: Do you have a message to the supporters back home, who are fully behind Amajimbos?
GW: We are busy writing the final chapter of a good story that started way back in June 2014. The coach has kept the core of the team and the Association has boosted the technical team to make certain tasks very much easier. We know that we have spoilt supporters with good results all along and we promise to keep the status quo. We trust that the accumulated experience from Niamey will be utilized and applied to the best of our abilities in the World Cup.