The Free State International Football Programme (FSIFP) is proof that the route to the top is possible with the balanced approach of education and specialised training
The programme was first launched in partnership with English outfit Bolton Wanderers, but Dutch giants Feyenoord have since become the main partners.
Feyenoord are not new to South African football, as their ties to top-flight side SuperSport United saw them recruit Kemirt Erasmus and Kamohelo Mokotjo a few years ago.
Gido Vader, the Head of International Relations at the Eredivisie outfit however insists that this relationship with the Free State is about more than just identifying talent for their club.
“That they are identified by this programme doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to come to The Netherlands. Some of the kids are now getting opportunities with professional clubs in South African football, for us that is also something positive.
Tyrone Mondi, an alumnus of the project, has been the talk of the town, following an impressive display for the USSA (University Sports South Africa) select team at the recent SAFA/SAB Under-21 Championships.
The 19-year-old was part of the program during the early stages of its development, and earned himself a scholarship to the Bolton Wanderers International Academy three years ago.
Simsport International’s Rasthoem Simons admitted this was something their project is proud of in their six years of existence.
“He (Tyrone) was man of the match twice and scored about four goals and they won the tournament. And he is currently in the national U20 camp. This is a boy that has only played for his father’s local football club,” Simons said proudly to Goal.
“He was on this program from the Bolton days from about the age of 15, now 19 after the (U21) tournament suddenly people are starting to ask questions. For us, it’s a milestone.
“Education is also important for us, and Tyrone’s path up to this point has always been through education. He went to Bolton Wanderers and did exceptionally well. He came back and did his grade 11 and 12 in one year. He is currently on scholarship with the University of the Free State [a partner to FSIFP], and has a scholarship with the University of Northwestern Ohio, which he will probably leave for next month (August).”
It is these little pockets of progress, combined with the programmes expansion plans, there is no reason this relationship should not see a few players make their way straight to the big leagues as well-rounded individuals.
This interview was done by Diski Nites host Sizwe "Umjaka"Mbebe on behalf of Goal. DiskiNites is a monthly interactive live show. Find out more on http://diskinites.com/