JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs’ coach Ernst Middendorp praised the good work done by the club’s academy after another graduate made a seamless transition to the first team.
Nkosingiphile Ngcobo made his Amakhosi debut on Saturday in Chiefs’ 1-0 win over Maritzburg United at FNB Stadium. The 19-year-old had some nice touches, building on the performances he displayed in the colours of the national team at the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Niger where he helped Amajita qualify for the World Cup and earn a place in the Team of the Tournament.
Ngcobo joins the likes of Happy Mashiane, Bruce Bvuma and Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya, who all graduated from the club’s academy.
And Njabulo Blom has also made the step up to the first team.
But inasmuch as Chiefs are doing a good job in the talent they’re producing, they – like most of the big teams – tend to be conservative in their assessment of their youngsters’ readiness to play for the first team.
Their argument is that they’re protecting the players from the scrutiny which comes with donning their history- heavy jersey. This leaves the junior national teams having to do some of the work in preparing the players’ readiness by throwing them in the deep end.
“It’s quite interesting at times to (hear the analysis of players’ development) and I disagree with the notion that the national team makes it happen, that overnight they create the star, overnight they produce something,” Middendorp said.
“There’s fantastic work being done at the academy under the leadership of Sundra Govinder and Arthur Zwane. They come from there. I only take the risk and have the balls to bring them into the first team. But their preparation, it’s not the national team that does it or me, the people who do it are these guys in the academy.”
Middendorp is among a few coaches who are brave enough to throw youngsters in the deep end. In a short space of time, since joining Chiefs in December, the German coach has given Happy Mashiane and Ngcobo their debuts – players who showed a long time ago that they’re ready to step up.
Ngcobo and Mashiane have been a marvel to watch since their days in Chiefs’ MultiChoice Diski Challenge team under the leadership of Zwane.
“There are a lot of guys (who are doing well in the academy), Njabulo Blom and I can give you other names,” Middendorp said. “That has to be mentioned and that has to be seen. These guys (in charge of our academy) are responsible for their development and not the so-called guy who are doing something overnight (and suddenly the players) fall like snowfalls from Kilimanjaro. It’s unfair! It’s simple unfair.
“The clubs’ academies are doing a good job. And this is very important, for me and for us to highlight that. Not that somebody is sitting there and has an opinion.”