The hallmark of any successful team is having top youth prospects, specifically those who have come through the club’s academy. This is because there is an inherent connection to the fans and a likelihood that these young players support the club. This is intangible gold. The question arises, why don’t Kaizer Chiefs produce top young players anymore, specifically from their academy?
Europe’s biggest and best clubs, such as Manchester City, Arsenal, and Barcelona, have all integrated homegrown young players into their squads, reaping the benefits. These clubs are some of the best in the world, and they all have young players in their squads. For example, Foden (22), Lewis (18), Palmer (20), and Saka (21) are all local lads from Manchester and London, while Gavi (18) and Ansu Fati (20) are some of the most exciting talents in the world from Barcelona’s La Masia academy.
These are just some of the local players who have graduated from the academy, not to mention Haaland (18), Julian Alvarez (23), Martin Odegaard (24), Martinelli (21), Saliba (21), and Pedri (20), who are some of the world’s best players at a young age. If the world’s biggest and best teams in England and Spain can do this, why can’t Kaizer Chiefs? Just look at the revelation that has been Cassius Mailula at Sundowns.
Furthermore, these young players are not just being thrown into the deep end, they are nurtured and closely monitored. For example, Odegaard (24) can flourish because he plays alongside experienced players in Partey and Xhaka, who allow him to express himself. The same can be said of Gavi and Pedri playing with the veteran Sergio Busquets, who provides protection and leadership. Foden has learned from world-class players like David Silva, so when he played, he was protected and helped by those players.
This raises the question, why aren’t Kaizer Chiefs producing more top talent from their academy? There could be several reasons, such as a lack of emphasis on integrating young players, poor planning, or mediocre coaching at young ages. Kaizer Chiefs and Arthur Zwane should look to European giants Manchester City, Arsenal, and Barcelona for inspiration in this area.
In the Kaizer Chiefs starting XI, there are two academy products, Mdudzi Tshabala (19) and Siyabonga Ngezana (25), which is a great achievement, and five players under the age of 24 in the squad, including Sabelo Radebe (23) and Samkelo Zwane (21), who are both academy graduates, as well as Wandile Duba (23). While this is an improvement compared to their rivals, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, having only five players under the age of 24 in the squad may not be enough to perform at their highest levels and this needs to be addressed in order for Chiefs to get back to the top. If we compare the average squad ages of Arsenal (24), City (26) when Foden plays, and Barca (25), Chiefs have to get the distribution and balance correct between their younger players and older players. The lack of young, hungry and fresh players could be a contributing factor to their poor performance in the league.
Therefore, based on the above findings there are a few different reasons for the lack of youth integration in the Chiefs side, however it seems as though Chiefs are trying to address the situation and we can see this through their model of incorporating more academy players into their starting XI. Time will tell if this is the beginning of an important and successful process or not.