Free State Stars’ ability to uncover raw talent is legendary, but its not a case of chance – plenty of effort goes into their scouting network.
|Steve Khomphela @ Backpagepix
Kaizer Chiefs’ Siphiwe Tshabalala and Sthembiso Ngcobo, newly-signed Mamelodi Sundowns striker Edward Manqele all graduated from the Free State Stars school of soccer.
So too did the likes of Sifiso Vilkazi and Diyo Sibisi, and before them Tsweu Mokoro, Hleza Mofedi and Goodman Mazibuko, while Orlando Pirates have done regular business with Ea Lla Koto in recent times.
So is there something in the air - does the region have the knack of producing naturally talented footballers, or are Stars just really good at developing players? It’s a bit of both, says Stars General Manager Rantsi Mokoena.
“There is certainly a lot of talent out there, but these players don’t just pop up, you don’t just find them under a stone, in a cave.
“It takes a lot of hard work to find them – years sometimes, of watching matches, of having the scouts out there following up on leads,” he told PSL.co.za.
The club has seen several key players leave during the off-season, including the high profile move of Edward Manqele to Sundowns.
But the Bethlehem-based side have coped before, and they will do so again, believes Mokoena.
“We’ve made six or seven good signings, players from Jomo Cosmos, Celtic, Santos, and a few from the lower divisions. And we’ve kept our coach, Steve Komphela, which is also important.
“Not only Steve as an individual, but our entire technical team has been together for a few years now – continuity is a key factor for a side to do well.”
Last season’s success resulted in a sixth place finish, and the right to compete in the lucrative MTN8, where Stars will meet with SuperSport United at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“We’re excited, as with, the hype is there, and we want to do well. Its important to get a good start in the MTN8 – it can set the pace for our league campaign.
“Obviously the quality is there – these are the best eight sides in the country. SuperSport will be a difficult side – they are a stable team, we don’t take them lightly – you have to think on your feet when you play them.”