Currently there is a dearth of South African born players plying their trade in the big European leagues. The question is why? Former Orlando Pirates Coach, Owen Da Gama believes that currently as a nation we are not taken seriously by clubs in the top leagues overseas. The man that made his name with Silver Stars in the early 2000’s gives his reasons for the lack of SA players at top European clubs.
“Club owners need to go to clubs like Newcastle United and see what they are doing. They must not just send coaches like they always do. We will never get it right if we don’t put the proper infrastructures in place from the analyst to the sport science department. There are probably only 5 or 6 clubs in the PSL with a proper sports science department. This means clubs that buy players don’t have any record of the player from a physical point of view. We also need a huge investment in our development by employing European coaches at a development level not at the PSL level. We need to do that so that our young players are properly prepared for Europe,” Owen Da Gama told ThisIsFootball.Africa.
“Our clubs don’t have associations or relations with clubs overseas like what we had before with AFC Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and one or two other clubs. I think that opened a lot of doors, coupled with the fact that Bafana Bafana were doing well. As were the national under 23’s at the time. Especially when Shakes Mashaba beat Brazil at the Olympics in Sydney. That opened quite a lot of doors. Now that Bafana is not doing well and not going far in major competitions really restricts and limits the exposure of our players and we are not really taken seriously, let’s be honest about that.”
“If a case study was done today comparing a mid-table PSL club and the equivalent at the Premier League in England, the results would be shocking from an infrastructure point of view to how we develop players both technically, physically in terms of preparation and how we load our players from day to day. At 18 years of age our players are not ready, because our players do not have the same support due to the lack of infrastructure as I mentioned earlier. Yet overseas, we see 18 year olds in the big teams. Just Look at Barcelona”
“I also believe that Covid affected clubs a lot. It brought a lot of financial constraints, and what we are looking for all the time is raw talent as opposed to development. But what we should be doing is developing talent like all the clubs worldwide are doing. They develop from a young age. I also believe that bringing in European coaches is good. It’s good to see them in the PSL. A lot of them add value to the PSL, but I always believe that we should be bringing in the best European coaches into our development structures. We need to get that 100 percent right because by the time players are coming to the first team at 26, 27 years old, how much can coaches affect change on the player? Maybe from a mental capacity, but not from a developmental capacity.”
“We don’t have sport scientists, we don’t have performance analysts, nutritionists etc at every PSL club. This also includes the Motsepe foundation Championship. The lack of support is evident at a national level too, countries like France for example succeed with players of African descent because they have got all these support structures in place. They are there to enhance and improve players from their first kick of the ball until the global stage of the FIFA World Cup.”