Former Bafana players give back

Infinite Skilz co-founder and former Bafana Bafana defender Neil Winstanley with the youngsters from Fezeka High School after a soccer clinic held at Hickory Road soccer astro at in Athlone at the weekend. Picture: Renata Bossi

A soccer clinic organised by Cape Town gym owners and former Bafana Bafana fottballers, Neil Winstanley and Ryan Botha, could just be the kind of boost footballers from previously disadvantaged areas need to reach the next level of skill.

The two invited a group of budding under-13 footballers from Fezeka Secondary School in Gugulethu to take part in a soccer clinic at the Hickory Road soccer astro in Athlone.

The excited youngsters were treated to a morning of basic training under the banner of Infinite Skilz, an initiative founded by the two former professionals to promote soccer at grassroots level.

The morning’s activities included first touch trapping, shooting for target, defending, attacking and a talk around education, respect and following their dreams.

Winstanley and Botha, who are also the co-owners of a gym in town, said Fezeka was the first school to respond to this invitation and in the future other schools will also be part of the programme.

Winstanley, who has played for PSL giants Kaizer Chiefs as well as Bidvest Wits, said they found that there is a massive gap in South African football – where no one is developing talent. “This is an initiative we have come up with. We felt it is vitally important for kids at the age of 13 and 14 to actually realise they can be professional footballers. We want to give them the fundamentals and the basics of football so they can follow their dream and go in to soccer permanently,” says Winstanley.

He said they spoke a little bit about how they should live their lives – to listen to their parents and their grandparents.

“We taught them a few skills sessions, a couple of shooting drills, on game situations, how to keep the ball – how to defend and how to attack. The kids loved it. The most important thing is that we want the kids to do well. We want them while they are developing their football skills to develop their life skills. Hence the company is called Infinite Skilz.

“We were lucky to have great sponsorships. We are very thankful because at the end of the day we are here to help the kids and for them to stay off the streets,” says Winstanley.

Botha, who has played in Finland and for numerous Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs, including Platinum Stars, said it is always great taking care of kids, as he also has a 9-year-old son who is enthusiastic about the round ball.

“It is interesting to see how the attention span can change so fast when they enjoy themselves. Today was fun. We spoke to the kids about their lives and football and we got them to enjoy themselves,” says Botha.

He said South African soccer has an abundance of talented youngsters, however, it does not know how to take it to the next level.

“Muhsin Ertugral said it perfectly, ‘It’s like taking primary school kids and putting them into university’. The development here lacks so with that abundance of talent if we can just nurture and develop it in the right way we are going to be a world force in football.

“For now we need to focus on the grassroots because it is more important in SA,” says Botha.

Odwa Jikumlambo, 13, and Mpumelelo Mafuya, 13, who were a part of the soccer clinic, said they learned more about attacking and defending, and that interacting with the experienced footballers helped them.

“That is how I trained today so I love it. It will help us a lot. Since I grew up I wanted to be a star player. I told myself I will never leave soccer because I know it will give me something.

“I will go through challenges but I will rise above them and succeed,” says Odwa.

“I loved it very much because I learned a lot of new things. I have always played soccer since I was six years old, I will never leave it,” says Mpumelelo.