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'Shoes is a role model' 12/08/04
Fans' columnist Unathi Mntonintshi looks at an issue which is plaguing the game in South Africa - promising young players at junior international level are not realising their full potential at senior level.

Touchline Photo

The first time I ever set my eyes on John 'Shoes' Moshoeu was when he played at the Independence Stadium in Umtata for NSL play-offs.

He played for a club called Blackpool. Thats how we knew the club then. The play-offs were for joining the NSL First Division, the top league then. This was about 1985-7, I cant remember clearly.

Those of us who were football fanatics watched every game of the play-offs. We would arrive there in the morning and leave after the last game in the evening. Despite not knowing his age then, there was no doubt about the talent that 'Shoes' had.

He mesmerised defenders and scored some wonderful goals. You could see the opposition players literally pointing to each other to mark Shoes.

It turns that Shoes was about 18 years old. You see it is almost twenty years down the line and Shoes Moshoeus name is still in our lips. He was recently crowned the Kaizer Chiefs Player of the Year and is part of the few select group to have won the African Cup of Nations in this country.

Shoes has gone on to win his first league championship in professional ranks. But there is a lesson about this story.

Whatever Shoes promised me and the rest of the people who were at Independence Stadium some 16 years ago, he delivered. This is something that our footballers dont seem to realise. I have heard many young players touted as stars in the making and never realise that stardom.

Take Dillon Sheppard for example. He played for the U-12 way back in 1994 for the School of Excellence when Ted Dumitru had just established the school. Sheppard continued and featured as one of the youngest players even to play for the U-23 as Mich DAvry was convinced that this boy will become a star.

The reality though is that it is 10 years down the line and Sheppard is nowhere close to what he promised at the School of Excellence. Even players like Doctor Khumalo have been subjected to criticism of not achieving as much as they should considering their talent.

Partying, women and smoking have been bandit about as some of the reasons why our beloved Mdokisi has not achieved that much.

Interestingly Steven Pienaar was also part of that team. At the moment he is best poised to make a success of his career than any other player of his age. Benni McCarthy is another player who is poised to at last realise his promise.

But watching Elrio van Heerden play one cant help but think that he might just fall into the same trap. It could be that he looks like Quinton Fortune as a result he reminds me of him.

I believe that if Stuart Baxter was to leave a legacy in this country, he should do something about star players promising at a young age but never realising their potential. In Stanton Fredericks he mentioned one player who he thought would become a star but Stiga hasnt set the world alight.

There next logical question is to find out what the problem is. Mark Byrne was a development coach at Udinese. He says that up to the age of 17 South African players can match the best in the world. But after that they go down as opposed to continue to improve.

Kaizer Chiefs coach Ted Dumitru seems to have the answer. "At about 17, thats the time the players start to be fed the European coaching methods that do not enhance their natural ability. This coupled with some social problems create a climate of no win for the players," says the professor.

Dumitru suggested that clubs should do more to look after their players after Jabu Pule threatened to be another statistic. One of the fathers of modern football coaching, naturalised Italian Helenio Herera, suggested a holistic approach to coaching.

Herera was convinced that a players social life has an impact on the players ability to perform on the field of play. Diets were first introduced for football players. Clearly holistic in the context of South African football should also include the players background and social well-being. 

It is this social environment that fails to acknowledge our real heroes. For those youngsters looking for a role model, they should look no further than John Moshoeu. For a promise you make should be a promise you keep!


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