Later though, they switched the sponsorship to the Supersport United Youth Academy as such an initiative was more in keeping with Phumelela’s goal to assist in developing the youth of South Africa, whilst simultaneously maximising the natural synergies between the action-packed and exciting worlds of horseracing and soccer.
Established in 2000, the objective of the academy is to assist young aspirant soccer stars to maximise their footballing potential, while simultaneously ensuring they develop into responsible citizens with an education to fall back onto, should they not be able to pursue football as a full-time career.
The players are scouted from around South Africa through SAFA and SASFA tournaments, friendlies, league fixtures and trials and are aged 12 years and up. They play for the academy until they have matriculated and thereafter will be signed by the senior team should they meet the talent criteria. Those who are unfortunate not to make a career out of the beautiful game, pursue their desired careers as professionals elsewhere.
The academy provides players with a free formal education. And to further develop their football talent and equip them for the demands of modern-day life and professional football, players enjoy life-skills education as well as access to world-class training and medical facilities.
It’s the international partnerships that the club prides itself on most as the exchange programmes in place have afforded their players opportunities that they previously would have only dreamt of. From 2001 till 2007 Supersport saw the need to join forces with a European club and had a very successful partnership with Feyenoord Rotterdam from Holland. In 2007 the academy partnered with Tottenham Hotspurs FC, and Bongani Khumalo was one such player who thrived under this exchange programme opportunity and was signed by Spurs.
In addition to this, the club has a superb partnership with Stellenbosch University which offers six scholarships for players aged 18 – 20 years old, wanting to further their studies whilst playing football. The University also has one of the best High Performance Centres in the country, allowing the medical staff to continuously improve their knowledge.
A new partnership has also been formed and is known as the SuperSport United Soccer Schools. This Academy previously only had u13 – u19 teams, however through the partnership, they are expanding from u8 through to MDC level, and will thus be truly representative of the country’s demographics with roughly 60% of their players coming from Gauteng and the youngest group coming from Pretoria.
In the past, the majority of the players were housed and attended Rosina Sedibane Sport School. This fruitful relationship saw the academy players win several tournaments with great prize money for the school as well as winning overseas trips representing the Schools World Cup in Turkey in 2009, Brazil in 2011 and France 2013.
To further compliment the work being done at the academy, Phumelela and SuperSport United also join forces in an annual community soccer project, which gives youngsters with natural footballing talent a chance to break into the big time. The project also aims to increase the level of soccer coaching skills at selected schools through interaction with school coaches, coaching manuals and other coaching aids. The climax of the project is a four-team tournament that includes a Phumelela Select XI.
Phumelela is instrumental in the soccer in communities and SuperSport’s Scouting plans, facilitating the SuperSport Scouting programme in looking for talent in areas that no one would look, and trying to find that diamond in the rough. The selected players also get invited to the Supersport Academy for a week in December and get a full rundown of how the academy works.
“Trials for the u17s and u19s are held in February and March and later this year the club will do the ‘Coach the Coaches’ programme for coaches, which will be done by the first-team technical guys as well as the academy coaches.” says Kwanele Kopo, Academy scout and manager.
With success stories like Ronwen Williams, Kermit Erasmus, Kamoehelo Mokotjo and Thato Mokeke, the Phumelela Supersport United Youth Academy is well on its way to being the best on the African continent.