One of South Africa’s premier centres for the development of young talent, the Ubuntu Football Academy, will represent the South African boys’ national team at the forthcoming CAF African Schools Football Championships (COSAFA Qualifiers) to be held in Zimbabwe from the 14th to the 16th of December.
Ubuntu Football Academy will be led by the highly experienced Dave Waters, the team’s technical director and the author of the Dual Dream, an interesting and informative book that takes a deep dive “through statistics, logical reasoning and case studies”.
Waters said his book identifies the key reasons why the vast majority of South African academy players do not have sustained professional careers. “It also investigates many misconceptions about the opportunities that exist, and highlights some really dangerous pitfalls to avoid,” he said.
This week, SuperSport Schools sat down with Waters to learn more about his involvement in youth football, his love for the game, and the Ubuntu Football Academy’s preparations for the CAF African Schools Football Championships, Cosafa qualifiers.
His football journey in South Africa began in 2006, when Waters moved from the United Kingdom.
In 2010, when Waters was working at the ASD Academy in Cape Town, he helped develop dedicated, highly talented and hardworking young players, like Ayanda Patosi (Foolad) and Mihlali Mayambela (Aris Limassol), whose family has made a success of pursuing the beautiful game abroad.
Then, in 2015, after years of being involved in women’s football, he joined the Ubuntu Football Academy.
Working with the youth has been a rewarding journey, Waters said. However, he added, it also comes with its fair share of frustrations, especially witnessing talented players who could have achieved far greater things in life falling short.
Even so, Waters said it is important to reflect on his past work and that of the academy to recognise what they have achieved as a collective. Witnessing former players of Ubuntu thriving in life is of the utmost importance to him, regardless of the level of football they’re currently playing at.
Waters identified his charges becoming good fathers and husbands, being good brothers and making positive contributions to society, as vitally important to him. These are the aspects of his work at the academy from which he derives fulfilment when he reflects on the players who have passed through it.
One of the bigger challenges, he shared, was how to develop and invest in young players who have experienced trauma. “I mean trauma is quite rife in South Africa, sexual abuse, violence, alcohol,” he explained. “In most cases you will find out that these are things that the kids are witnessing, and it becomes a challenge for us.
“We find ourselves asking how we unearth potential that is being held back by a pattern of negative stuff or things that impact the life of young people. This is something that we have really looked into deeply at the Ubuntu Football Academy, and hopefully we can try and grow in that aspect, as we help these young men to become better and positive men in the near future.”
CAF African Schools Football, Cosafa Qualifiers Schools: “We are confident in ourselves”
Looking ahead to the trip to Zimbabwe, Waters said it was inspiring, encouraging, an honour and a privilege for the Ubuntu Football Academy to represent South Africa in the CAF African Schools Football Championships.
“We are very excited and feel very honoured to represent South Africa on the biggest stage of development football on the continent. Of course, we really don’t know what’s in store for us. But we are confident in who we are, and we know we deserve to play at this level.”
Waters said preparing for the CAF African Schools Champs has been challenging, with new rules and a new format asking different questions of his players. However, his charges would not shy away from those challenges.
“Playing nine-a-side on a tiny field with tiny goals has its challenges, and we had to navigate our way through this, competing against schools at the provincial and national level.”
Through the experience, Waters said, the team has learned a lot and grown its relationships on and off the field.
He described the national qualifying experience as both an administrative and football challenge, which required the players to adapt to different scenarios quickly.
“Because of the unknowns going into this competition, we had to strike a balance mentally and physically to ensure our boys are fresh, especially now that they have just come out of exams.”
The Academy’s success
The success of the academy is not necessarily driven by on-field results, Waters said. Ubuntu’s mission is to mentor and educate the next generation of great African leaders, society-changers, and footballers. He explained: “Our goal is to provide holistic mentorship to every child, developing them into leaders, professional footballers, and to help them reach their academic potential.”
Waters said about 22 players from Ubuntu have been awarded academic scholarships in the USA, while over 25 players have secured professional contracts with clubs in South Africa and overseas.
“In total 28 players have been selected for junior national team call-ups, with Jesse Donn (SuperSport United), Luke Fleurs (Kaizer Chiefs) and Antonio van Wyk (Stellenbosch FC) also receiving call-ups for senior South Africa,” he shared.
“Additionally, Munashe Garanga has showcased his skills in the UEFA Europa League this season, representing Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol.
“Moreover, five of our current players have made us proud by participating in the Pan-African Schools Championships, and they have been recently summoned up to the South African u15 national team training camp.”
A passionate reader and dedicated writer, Siya possesses three degrees from Rhodes University including a Postgraduate Diploma at Rhodes University. He also played amateur cricket and soccer, both during his university years. While honing his journalism skills at Grocott’s Mail in Makhanda, he developed a profound interest in the community’s response to crime. Additionally, he covered topics such as art/culture and student politics at Rhodes University in 2022. In his spare time, Siya can be found exploring galleries, dining at restaurants, indulging in literature, taking photographs or savouring his favourite dish, spaghetti.