Golden Stars Academy Producing Local Football Stars

Golden Stars Ladies Football Development founder, Abraham Sauls, has made it his mission to develop and improve the state of women's football in Nelson Mandela Bay. Photo: Supplied

Golden Stars Ladies Football Development founder, Abraham Sauls, has made it his mission to develop and improve the state of women’s football in Nelson Mandela Bay.

With only four years in existence the development programme is at the forefront of improving women’s football in NMB and has contributed to the success of many young ladies obtaining scholarships.

In 2017, three players from the programme enrolled at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria. One from the group is currently doing matric and is also part of the SA U20 squad.

Another player who is studying at and playing for UWC has obtained a scholarship in the USA to play college football.

Speaking with gsport, Sauls talks about his football development programme and reveals plans to continue improving the sport in his province.

 

Thank you very much for taking time to chat with us! Please can you tell us briefly about yourself.

I am Abraham John Sauls and I was born in Port Elizabeth. I never played competitive football. I was introduced to women’s football in 2007 by my sister’s son, Bernard Sauls.

I assisted at his club, Warriors FC, by taking the girls to training and games and from there I became the manager of the women’s team and club secretary.

In 2009 I decided to start my own club as we didn’t share the same vision about women’s football. I love the beautiful game and I am crazy about women’s football.

 

When was Golden Stars Ladies Football Development established and what was the idea behind it?

I established the club in February 2009. The idea was to have my own club where I could live my vision of advancing women’s football development.

Also,to give the young women of the Metro a different alternative to alcohol and drugs. At least every Tuesday and Thursday they’ll spend almost 3 hours in a different environment and weekends a minimum of four hours.

The other objective besides developing football is to develop responsible adults for the future. Football can also take them to new heights.

 

What age groups and which areas in the NMB do you cater for?

Currently we have teams participating in the SAFA Sasol League and SAFA NMB Regional League. There is no age group football for women at SAFA NMB or anywhere in the Eastern Cape.

The current Regional squad is between the ages of twelve and sixteen. We have players in Kwazakhele, New Brighton, Perridgevale, Westering, Morningside, North End, Newton Park, Schauderville, Gelvandale, Helenvale, Salt Lake, Salsoneville, Arcadia, Bethelsdorp Extensions 22, 29, 32, 36, Booysenspark and Dispatch.

Thus indicating that the club caters for the whole Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

In 2017 we had an under 10 team playing in the boys under 9 league and under 13 girls playing in the boys under 11 league. That was discontinued due to logistical and financial constraints.

 

What kind of difficulties if any, have you experienced over the years and how did you overcome them?

Obtaining sponsorship and assistance from the players and parents financially. From 2009 until 2020 I used mostly my own funds to run the club – this year I’m sort of forcing the parents to contribute.

In 2015 we applied to Lotto and received R50 000.00, the NMB Municipalities Sports Office funds us annually with a certain amount of money (Since 2017). As of 2021 I’ve been asking for assistance from the parents by means of an annual fee payment.

Sasol sponsors the Provincial League with an allowance of R30000 per season. That is for transport, three of those games are in East London, Dutywa and Alice. And R5000 is deducted for annual registration.

Lack of support from our local LFA and SAFA. e.g. programs to advance women’s football development, financial support, referees and coaching courses for women . There’s still not enough of the courses being presented or an easier way of getting the girls interested to actually see there’s a future for them in being a referee or a coach.

The ungratefulness of the players to realize the extra miles being walked to allow them to play football – in 2021 I decided to focus on those who are interested in really playing football and set mechanisms in place to educate the girls in football culture.

Getting the players to training and back home again – I eventually bought myself a Caddy in 2011 which then at least I could transport more players. This year I have a few parents who are assisting with transport.

Getting a home ground for the club to play our home games and train – we applied for a field with NMBM and the application is currently being finalized with the NMBM’s Legal Department. For our last three home games we paid the municipality to play at the Adcock Stadium (R520 per game).

Getting coaches to coach the teams – We decided to pay coaches to coach the players as nobody wants to volunteer to coach.

 

What is your take on women’s football in the NMB?

The only development of women’s football in the Metro are SAFA NMB offering the Regional League for women, Women’s Day Tournament and The Mayoral Cup. Most women’s clubs are women’s clubs only. The men’s teams are not interested in starting women’s teams.

There are no concrete programs coming from SAFA NMB or the LFA’s whereby they have a blue print on how to enhance the development of women’s football in the Metro. e.g. Golden Stars is the only active women’s club in the Northern Areas Football Association at the moment. PEFA only has NMMU participating in the Regional League.

Besides the Regional League there is no other leagues for women or Cup competitions for that matter. Not a single LFA has an LFA level Women’s League.
Women’s schools leagues are sort of non-existent. e.g. the current EP schools under fifteen trials were done with players from the Regional League clubs who participated in the COSAFA u15 Legacy tournament.

 

Do you think Development programs such as Golden Stars contribute to the development of women’s football in the NMB and SA?

Yes, what would’ve happened to women’s football if there weren’t clubs like Golden Stars?

 

What have been your biggest highlight and achievements since starting the program?

The fact that we had a number of girls representing EP at age group level over the years. At one tournament we had more than five players in the EP u19 team.
In 2016 we had our first player as part of the national u19 squad.

Three of our players were enrolled to the High Performance Centre in Pretoria in 2017. One is still there doing matric and currently part of the SA u20 squad.
The other one is studying at and playing for UWC and one has now obtained a scholarship in the USA to play college football. The player currently at HPC will be studying at UJ next year. We organized her enrollment.

One of our players was awarded a bursary   to study at NMMU in 2016 through a football scholarship. She graduated and returned to the club in 2020.
Winning the Regional League in 2014 and subsequently qualifying at the playoffs to play in the Sasol League.

 

Do you think women’s holistically is given much support by football organizations, potentially sponsors and people in general?

In a sense I would say yes. e.g. Sasol sponsoring the Sasol Provincial League, Hollywood Bets now sponsoring the Super League. The general public is not much aware of women’s football as yet. We need to market women’s football more vigorously. If Banyana Banyana can keep the winning momentum I think more money will be ploughed into women’s football.

 

What are you future plans and where would you like to see the program in the upcoming years?

We want to finalize the lease agreement for our own field and start developing the facilities. Also obtain sponsorship to allow us to achieve point one.  Actually have to put more effort into applying for sponsorship.

To create programs whereby we not only focus on football development but also the wellbeing of the players and have more players in the different national teams.
Get more women involved in the daily running of the program where at a certain stage I can step aside and allow the program to be run by women for women.

Also have age group teams participating in the LFA level age group leagues.
To have satellite programs in other towns in the Eastern Cape and start a primary schools league in the Northern Areas run by Golden Stars and to  start a women’s over 35 league.

 

Photo 1 Caption: Golden Stars Ladies Football Development founder, Abraham Sauls, has made it his mission to develop and improve the state of women’s football in Nelson Mandela Bay. Photo: Supplied

 

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Launched in 2006, gsport exists to enhance the commercial prospects of our women athletes, and other women in sport, by telling the inspiring story of SA women in sport. Thank you for your contribution!

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