Elrio big asset to Madibaz football

ELRIO VAN HEERDEN
ELRIO VAN HEERDEN
Image: BRITTANY BLAAUW

The Madibaz Football Club have scored a major coup by signing former Bafana Bafana player Elrio van Heerden as their technical specialist coach.

Although the 36-year-old midfielder has been assisting the Nelson Mandela University team in recent years, he now has a specific role in the management team.

Madibaz Sport football manager Mark Tommy said it was a massive breakthrough for the club to have a player of Van Heerden’s stature assisting head coach Wayne Iveson.

“Madibaz Football has a proud history of growing Port Elizabeth talent and investing in the next generation of quality local coaches,” he said.

“Elrio is an international star, having left for Europe as an 18-year-old to play professionally and, since returning to South Africa, has been coaching young players in the city.

“He also assisted Madibaz to gain promotion to the A section at the 2018 USSA [University Sport SA] tournament.

“We are really excited to have secured his services and his work with the students has been amazing.

“The players look up to him as an international-quality player, and admire his work ethic and tactical astuteness.”

He said the appointment was in line with the university’s ideal of “a case for change” to grow the quality and professional sport experience of their talented footballers.

Van Heerden, who earned 37 caps for Bafana, said it was amazing to be back where his soccer journey had started more than two decades before.

From 1998-2001, he attended the Soccer School of Excellence, which was part of the then University of Port Elizabeth.

“It’s always good to come back to where you started and give something back to the young players of today, trying to help them reach new heights,” Van Heerden said.

“It’s been a wonderful career for me and I’ve picked up the experience in professional soccer which I hope to pass on to the Madibaz players to help them achieve on the field.”

Among his immediate aims is to help prepare the squad for the USSA tournament in December, where they will be aiming to secure a spot in the 2020 Varsity Football competition.

“The quality is there and it’s a matter of bringing out the best in the players and getting them to believe they can do it,” he said.

“As much as they want it, so do the other varsities, so it’s the one who puts in the hard work and stays disciplined who will achieve in the end.”

Van Heerden said he was revelling in his relationship with the students – sentiments shared by several players.

Madibaz captain Samuel Connelly said Van Heerden’s impact had been nothing but positive: “Every training session with coach Elrio we learn something new.

“These are sessions where we have to think and work hard at the same time.

“I think most people have the perception that training is always serious, but with coach Elrio and the management we have times where it’s just fun and games.

“That helps a lot with the intensity of some training sessions.”

Siwaphiwe Maso, who was selected for the 2019 Nedbank Ke Yona, admitted he was overawed at first by Van Heerden’s achievements.

“But he’s the one who cracked the joke and broke the ice,” he said. “We all laughed and became comfortable around him.

“In 2018, in preparation for USSA, he boosted our confidence, took away the pressure and helped us achieve good results.

“The players are always willing to push for more, because he brings the best out of them.”

USSA U21 player Caleb Turner said Van Heerden had brought a different dimension to their play.

“I am excited to learn more about the game through his ideas and strategies.”

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