From navigating national nuances to addressing socio-economic disparities, Cardoso lays out a strategic approach that encompasses recruiting players, nurturing their development and seamlessly transitioning them into the professional stage of their careers. Despite facing challenges along the way, the academy is actively shaping a future in which players also gain international exposure. All of these elements come together to combine cultural awareness with footballing excellence, making Mamelodi Sundowns a powerhouse of youth development in South Africa.
Part 1: Diversity, challenges, and seamless player transitions
In the first part of the interview, Cardoso emphasises the value of understanding and respecting the context of South Africa’s diverse football landscape. He highlights the importance of assessing situations before implementing any changes, taking into consideration each player’s unique background and experiences. He acknowledges challenges such as addressing social issues and nutritional concerns for less privileged players, and he outlines a three-step process within the academy system: recruitment, development and transition to the first team. While recognising Mamelodi Sundowns’ strengths in terms of player management and communication between the academy, youth and senior teams, he also identifies opportunities for improvement, particularly with regard to recruitment strategies and coach development. He concludes the first part of the interview by reiterating the significance of players transitioning from the academy to the first team and underscores the importance of a province-based approach in order to address the current shortcomings.
Part 2: Elevating Mamelodi Sundowns academy in African football
In the second part of the interview, Cardoso underscores the crucial role that coaches play in developing players, emphasising the need for a well-defined and comprehensive coach development programme. The lack of international competitions in South Africa is a major challenge, and there are plans to tackle this issue. Cardoso provides insights into the efforts being undertaken to assess and enhance training sessions by focusing on context-based organisation and communication. He also mentions the importance of collaboration with coaches by convening weekly meetings and workshops and establishing a micro-cycle for training sessions. Cardoso recognises that coach development remains a challenge and recalls the mission of the Mamelodi Sundowns academy, which is to produce players for the first team. Its ultimate vision is to be recognised as South Africa’s best academy and among the leading academies on the continent, and to be aligned with the first team’s success and playing style.