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7 young soccer players to watch

In the short time we’ve seen these players in the second division and youth academies, they have caught the attention of international clubs, Bafana Bafana, and are perfectly suited for the turn-around strategies of teams in trophy droughts
Thu, Jun 16, 2022

The silver lining from the emerging trend of Premier Soccer League clubs trimming down their squads en masse is the likelihood that we will see more players from the respective youth academies.

In years gone by, coaches lamented not having a proper reserve league which not only doubles as a feeder team to the senior side, but also gives players who’ve just recovered from injuries and aren’t getting regular game time an alternative.

That’s now sorted, albeit with the league insisting on an age cap for the DStv Diski Challenge, the door is wide open for topflight clubs to pick the crème de la crème from their academies and turn them into fully fledged professionals. And there are some who could shine next season.

1. Boitumelo Radiopane (Orlando Pirates)

The 20-year-old striker was promoted to the Buccaneers first team this season after proving too good for the reserve league, where he finished the 2021/22 term with an impressive 24 goals and showing his deadly prowess.

But with Pirates adding Ghanaian forward Kwame Peprah, it means Radiopane’s game time was limited as he only managed four games in his debut season. He’s not been short of suitors, with rival clubs keen to take him on loan and offer him a chance to gain experience… so the upcoming season could genuinely be his breakthrough.

2. Mduduzi Shabalala (Kaizer Chiefs)

Another player who has got tongues wagging and has already been to Europe for trials at Westerlo in Belgium hoping to land a contract abroad.

If he doesn’t, then it’s expected that coach Arthur Zwane will gradually introduce him to the Amakhosi first team in what will be a new-look Chiefs side with an emphasis on giving young players a chance to help rebuild the squad.

Shabalala, who can play as both a midfielder and a striker, is a product of the club’s development structures and they will want him to show that there’s still top-class talent emerging from there. He’s still only 18.

3. Rushwin Dortley (Cape Town Spurs)

He is currently in the second tier of SA football, the GladAfrica Championship, but word on the ground is that he won’t be at Spurs for long.

Dortley was wanted by Chiefs recently and given that the agency that represents him has solid contacts in Europe – a move overseas shouldn’t be ruled out.

The utility left footed defender is set to be part of Bafana Bafana’s COSAFA Cup squad made up of U23 players and that could be another avenue to open doors for him in the local topflight or have scouts in Europe on alert.

4. Ibraheem Jabaar (Stellenbosch FC)

Now this is an exciting player. It’s a real pity that he was overlooked for the Young Player of the Season award, having managed an incredible 28 games in his debut season for Stellies after being signed from Olisa FC in Nigeria two seasons ago.

He flew under the radar then, but with coach Steve Barker’s side finishing fourth in the DStv Premiership, just missing out on a CAF Confederation Cup spot, Jabaar was instrumental and should have been the favourite to win the Young Player of the Season.

5. Evidence Makgopa (Baroka/Orlando Pirates)

The less said about Makgopa’s performance at Baroka FC over the last 10 months, the better, and it’s no surprise that his team got relegated.

He went from being arguably the best striker in his age group and in the Bafana Bafana squad to being reduced to a bit part player. Fortunately, he will be better coached in the upcoming campaign as he is poised to join the Buccaneers in a big career move.

Makgopa had overseas offers that were rejected by Baroka. Quite a disservice to the young forward but playing for Pirates will put the 22-year-old back on the map.

6. Kegan Johannes (SuperSport United)

The right back endured a bit of a torrid debut season in the topflight, but it was expected considering he’s never played at this level before.

He will mature as he grows in his game and understanding of his role at SSU under a new coach – so expect his 18 matches to only get better.

Johannes is part of a young squad that is expected to grow together in the next coming season, and the 21-year-old will be an integral part of that.

7. Rowan Human (Maritzburg United)

The 21-year-old returned home from Israel at the beginning of the previous season and signed for the Team of Choice, although he’d been the subject of interest from several local Premier League clubs when Bidvest Wits was sold.

In all honesty, coach Ernst Middendorp struggled to get the best of the former U20 captain and the hierarchy would have been disappointed by that. Maritzburg, like many of their rivals, will also have a new coach for the 2022/23 season and Human could benefit immensely from that.