Thabo Nodada explains why white footballers don't come through from youth level
Cape Town City midfielder Thabo Nodada has given a remarkable breakdown of why so much football talent – and particularly white talent – gets lost in the South African private school system.
Nodada‚ who had to make a tough decision at 16 to abandon the predominant sport of rugby at Johannesburg’s King Edward VII School (KES)‚ described three aspects that conspire to create the situation.
Firstly‚ that rugby is so predominant at private schools‚ and soccer is often discouraged.
Secondly‚ the stigma that white and affluent black “cheeseboy” youngsters face wanting to join professional football clubs. And thirdly‚ white players being too comfortable to have the will to want to overcome such obstacles.
“Even the stigma from townships when they get to play these ‘white’ schools. They have something to say about you‚ or‚ you know – because your parents could afford to send you to that school‚” Nodada told an online press conference of the SA Football Journalists Association (Safja).
“And on a school like KES‚ there are things you can’t fight. Rugby has been the dominant sport since the school came about‚ and the sport that has encouraged scholars to go to KES. So obviously it gets the most attention.”
He said despite that‚ there is still a lot of football talent at private schools.
“And a lot of those kids you get to see at your [Bidvest] Wits‚ you used to see a lot of them at Aces’ academy‚” Nodada said.
“And to be blunt with you the talent that you don’t get to see as much is the white South Africans.
“ … In third term you knew there would be a three tournaments to play in‚ and those tournaments would have the best [soccer] schools‚ regardless of school fees or status.
“And funny that with all the stigma of ‘white boy this’ or ‘cheeseboy this’‚ we’d win these tournaments. St Davids‚ Jeppe‚ Maritzburg College – a school that is predominantly black – would dominate‚ and then the stigma is messed up. So there’s a lot to it.
“And the facilities we got‚ even if those schools didn’t take football as seriously‚ were excellent.”
Nodada said white players who are good enough should still make it to the top level if they had the will to overcome obstacles.
Asked why some of the talented white players he played with did not come through‚ Nodada said: “Some fell off. Some were circumstance.
“ … Because after U-19‚ you go to the MDC [reserve team]‚ so there’s no real accommodation of the person who’s just graduated from U-19 and is not quite ready for the next step.
“And when they fell off‚ then came believing the stigmas‚ and thinking‚ ‘Ag‚ this is not really for me in South Africa’.
“I had a friend who was quality‚ who was at SuperSport and Wits‚ and he felt the only way he was going to be taken seriously was if he went and played fourth or fifth tier in England.
“Because he‚ from academy‚ was someone who would be dropped off by his dad in a beautiful car‚ and when he has a birthday party at his home people visit‚ the coaches visit‚ and come to a house that’s got an indoor football court. And that perception changes – [it becomes] ‘he doesn’t need it’.
“ … Maybe they weren’t just cut for it as much as I thought they were. There are a lot of bumps. Things don’t just come‚ and you had to know this one and that one.
“I speak to them‚ and they’re still lovers of football. But because of the privilege and being able to finish their school‚ they don’t care.
“They are OK with the decision they took with going to school and studying and rather having football as a hobby.”