Mabena: The face behind School of Excellence success

By Thathe Msimango

Over the years the School of Excellence has been deemed as one of the best football academies in the country. 

Since its inception in the late 1990’s, the academy has produced wonderful players like Steven Pienaar, Keagan Dolly and Daine Klate.

But behind every success, there is a man behind it and James Mabena has been coaching in the school based in Tembisa for over two decades. 

Mabena, who is a former Swallows defender, thinks it is passion that drives the good results.

“I think over the years, all people who have served the school have been passionate about the sport which I think contributed largely into our success,” explains Mabena

“The important thing is to develop young talent so that they can shine in the future. In the past, we had people who gave it all to help the kids to succeed.”

Despite the success rate, the Academy has faced many challenges in the past 10 years, including losing a million rand sponsorship from Transnet. 

“I think we lost some good coaches in the last 10 years or so. That affected us badly because we had to keep bringing new faces into the picture who were forced to learn our culture,” he emphasised

“Another thing, I think we felt neglected by getting limited funding and support. As a result Transnet, which was a major sponsor, pulled out last year as we were not getting sufficient results. It is not always possible to succeed in life as challenges are part of life.”

With the likes of Selaelo Rasebotja of SuperSport United, Orlando Pirates’ Boitumelo Radio pane who is on loan to Cape Town Spurs and Siyabonga Mabena of Mamelodi Sundowns being  counted among its latest products, Mabena believes they got capabilities to restore their name.

“We have not stopped producing players but I think the rate has dropped a bit due to many factors. 

“We are still one of the best academies in the country. With enough financial backing we can shoot back to be number one. It’s all about finding people with the common goal then we can succeed,” he said. 

Picture above: Steven Pienaar, one of the notable graduates from School of Excellence

Image source: Twitter

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