SOUTH African football has had its share of problems over the years, but if the sterling efforts of SuperSport United defender Thabo September are anything to go by, the game is in good hands.
Born and raised in Knysna, September, 30, has taken the game back to his Southern Cape roots, hosting the Thabo September u-16 tournament in which 16 teams from around the region battle it out for the coveted title.
The tournament – now in its third year – will be played at Knysna’s Loerie Park Stadium on June 22 and 23, and will again feature clubs from Knysna, George, Mossel Bay and surrounding areas.
The affable former Bush Bucks player yesterday explained how youngsters from the Southern Cape often struggled to make it into the professional ranks simply by virtue of where they lived.
”My journey has been a long one. Growing up in Knysna, it was difficult to catch the attention of scouts where we were. I always had to travel to PE or Cape Town to play for someone in order to get noticed,” he said.
”There are quality soccer players in the Southern Cape, and I felt that by hosting a tournament for them they might get a chance to be recognised.”
September left Bush Bucks for SuperSport in 2006, and during his tenure at the club was part of the all-conquering squad that won three consecutive Absa Premiership titles between 2007 and 2010.
Yet despite his success the player, considered one of the country’s most reliable defenders, has never forgotten where it all started and is determined to give back to his community.
”I started off playing for local club Knysna Bafana, which my dad owns. To show the quality of the team, they are now playing in the Castle League.
”However, as school sport has become stronger there has not been as much emphasis on club soccer, which was another reason why I wanted to start the tournament.”
He said not only soccer, but all sports were pivotal in developing youngsters’ character. In addition, soccer was a wonderful way to keep children off the streets and away from temptations like drugs and alcohol.
”I am very proud of this tournament, but especially because I have already surpassed what I set out to achieve three years ago. When it first started, I hoped that within five years we could find one player who might go on to professional soccer.
“Last year we identified two players – one from Plettenberg Bay and one from Mossel Bay – who have now joined us at the SuperSport Academy.”
As part of his attempts to attract attention for young players, September has invited a host of PSL and academy scouts to attend this year’s tournament.
”The Knysna municipality has been very supportive, as has SuperSport, which will be showing highlights of the tournament at a later date. I can’t wait.”