20 January 2008

Youth system reaping rewards

The introduction of 16-year-old Jabulani “JB” Ncubeni as a second half substitute was a rewarding moment for all involved with the club's youth development program.

MARITZBURG United bouncing back from their losing streak with an emphatic 2-0 victory over league leaders Ajax Cape Town at Woodburn Stadium on Saturday would have come as a huge relief to the club and its fans.

But the talking point of the game was the 54th-minute introduction of United youth system product Jabulani “JB” Ncubeni, who at 16 became one of the youngest players to debut in the Premier Soccer League.

Edendale lad Ncubeni, the first youth player promoted to the United senior team while in the PSL, displayed skills, audacity and an ability to cross the ball, at times toying with experienced Ajax left-back Brett Evans.

The young winger, who has spent the past two years under the tutorship of United under-19 coach and head of development Katz Naidoo, joins another product of the youth system, Kulegani “Chilis” Madondo, to be given a senior contract by head coach Gordon Igesund.

Madondo (19) left United to school in Johannesburg more than a year ago, where he joined PSL side Wits University’s youth programme.

Igesund described Ncubeni as having a “raw arrogance”. “JB is a very young player with immense talent,” the coach said yesterday. “I wanted to get Maritzburg players into the team because that is what people want to start seeing at this club.

“I spoke to Katz and had a look at the juniors and I was hugely impressed with JB, to the extent that I brought him in to train with the senior team where he showed the positive qualities to be signed as a first team player.

“Like many young South African players he needs to get a bit stronger. He came on on the right on Saturday, but actually he’s more comfortable on his left foot. I think he’s got a big opportunity at Maritzburg, and for Bafana Bafana in 2010.”

Madondo said he came back to United to have a chance to play PSL football in the future in his home city.

“I wanted to come back home and I called coach Katz and asked him if he could help me,” the young defensive midfielder said. “I wanted to join a big team to play in the PSL in my home city, and lift the Maritzburg flag.”

The youngster said he has already learnt a great deal from training with players such as DRC international Bageta Dikilu and experienced defender Gary Goldstone.

“I’m not scared of them,” he said. “I respect them a lot because they have experience and have been around for a while.

“I just have to stick to the basics and play my normal football. The senior players are not that hard on us — they help us, and tell us how to work on our game.”

Igesund said of Madondo: “He is physically stronger than JB, and I also think he is going to be a very good player. He will be part of the setup, learning and gaining experience, and when the time is right he will get his opportunity.

“I think both he and JP are above normal talent. Credit must go to Katz Naidoo for the way he has worked with these players and brought them through.”

Naidoo said: “It sends a message to other youngsters I have such as Ayanda Ndlovu and Fabian Le Bon that if they work hard they can also be recognised.”

* Article and pic courtesy of Marc Strydom and the Witness