Soccer Institute in Mafikeng

The moment you set foot on North West University’s (NWU) Soccer Institute situated at its Mafikeng campus, you are met by a truly professional staff and students with one thing on their mind: football and the pursuit of professionalism. As part of NWU, the Institute has the privilege of sharing state-of-the-art facilities, as well as the University’s scientific and research-based approach to attaining the Institute’s goals of making professionals out of talented young football players. They provide players with the chance to work towards a recognized degree of their choice thus presenting a truly holistic approach to professional football player development.

Talented young players with suitable academic standards are sourced from their respective schools and invited to join the programme in Mafikeng. Here they are fully integrated into NWU as students of both academic and football pursuits. The students have a normal campus life with one exception; their stringent football programme. At the Institute they are put through their paces daily, under the constant supervision of professional coaches.

In addition to their normal football practice sessions and workouts, they also participate in rigorous gym and swimming pool sessions. Recognizing the role that nutrition plays as the key to peak performance, the Institute provides them with scientifically formulated meals as part of the programme.

The NWU Soccer Institute has also started developing a Schools Soccer League at surrounding village schools to allow the players to plough back their knowledge and skills into the community. The coaches and students are able to apply their scientific training and tracking methods in a much wider field, to the benefit of their local community.

NWU and the students are already starting to reap the rewards of this intensive programme:

  • Two players in the South African National U20 team
  • Four Provincial players
  • Three Under 19 players for the South African Student Sports Union National team (SASSU)

Making and becoming professional football players is truly the aim of the staff and students at the NWU Soccer Institute in Mafikeng.

North-West University

North-West University was established in 2004 through a merger between Potchefstroom University and University of North-West. The university has embraced the challenges of the merger with imagination and a clear vision. “….To be a pre-eminent university in Africa, driven by the pursuit of knowledge and innovation …” One of the challenges the “new” university faced was the development of the Mafikeng Campus from a “campus of last resort” to campus of first choice for students from across South Africa and even beyond. NWU is South Africa’s leading University in Sports Development. Its Potchefstroom campus houses a world-class High Performance Institute and its rugby institute has produced thirty six players at National and Provincial level over the past five years. It has also established itself as a leading venue for athletics training. Some 700 international athletes, including Dame Kelly Holmes, have used Potchefstroom as their base.

Vision NWU Soccer Institute

Building on its leadership position in Sports development, NWU established the Soccer Institute at the Mafikeng Campus with two specific objectives.

  1. To create a centre of excellence in Soccer development
  2. To harness the power of Soccer for educational and social development

Curriculum development

The NSI follows a very strict admissions policy. Only students who pass academic criteria are considered for trails to assess their proficiency in Soccer. The comprehensive development program is based on the successful programs in other sports disciplines at NWU. The student is developed as whole person. This is achieved through:

  • Coaching and training in soccer
  • Completion of an accredited academic program at NWU
  • Each student undergoes comprehensive Life Skills training and is also allocated to a mentor that supports & guides his/her development.

Continuous improvement and curriculum development remains an imperative to establish and maintain a centre of excellence in soccer. The NWU Diploma in Coaching Sciences is constantly being improved and/or complimented with new modules and training material that includes 29 different resources including Manuals, books, CD’s, DVD, Wall charts etc.

Excellence in Coaching

Capacity building at the NSI is an ongoing process and is being achieved through various means. We identified the need to improve the level of coaching at the NSI. Significant progress has been made to ensure the sustained production of quality soccer players for the country. London South Bank University, as part of the England Africa Partnership program, completed a preparatory visit to NWU in July 2007 and then delivered an intensive week of training for NWU staff and students in November 2007. The preparatory visit was essential in order to observe and fully understand the local environment for training, course delivery and sports development. Through this initial visit it became apparent that the greatest benefit would be achieved if LSBU coaching approach were followed as opposed to hybrid or bespoke options. However, delivery where possible, was tailored to map against both the South African Football Association (SAFA) awards and the NWU Diploma in Coaching Science (DCS). The programme was completed by all students and 4 staff and the feedback was extremely positive with an overall 95% satisfaction rating with no element scoring less than 4 out of 5 from any of the participants. Ongoing training and development of senior team and Ambassadors is achieved by complimenting the curriculum with visiting tutors and coaches.

Community Outreach – “Young Ambassadors” program

Interaction with surrounding communities is important for the Institute, as these communities, and the University, stand to benefit from each other. NWU Soccer Institute (NSI) players traveled to some of these villages to participate in community programmes as a means of creating awareness, and to bolster the image of the Soccer Institute. Schools willing to host NWU Ambassador placements were identified and 5 schools were visited to establish working relationships with senior staff and to observe the teaching environment where the NWU “Young Ambassadors” were to deliver coaching first hand. The Ambassadors have also visited 6 Schools at part of the community outreach program so far. Coaching clinics were conducted for a group of twenty players from surrounding villages. The boys were very enthusiastic, enjoyed themselves, and benefited significantly. The focus was on technique and the importance of the warming up and the cooling down in football. NSI coaches also shared technical expertise with Community coaches who showed great interest and were willing to learn. Through these outreaches the NSI identified two prospective players for the Institute.

We are also witnessing incredible synergy arising from strategic partnerships across a variety of sectors. The SI is gaining momentum and has clearly shifted from vision to reality.

Talent identification at school

The NSI has further identified three learners who are still at high school and are now part of the NSI under 19 team. The intention is to support them fully in their studies to make sure that they pass and become students at NWU. It is our view that we should recruit the exceptional boys still at school so that we can develop their soccer skills by monitoring and supporting them with professional coaching. We hope that this will also contribute positively to the image of the Soccer Institute.


The core activities of the NSI are developing well, although improvements in facilities and technical/coaching activities are still required. The aim, taking together existing and potential new and expanded areas of activity, remains to make NWU the leading university for sport and development in Southern Africa. The very quick progress which has been made a Mafikeng, combined with the established track record at Potchefstroom make this an eminently realisable possibility. The successes achieved would not have been possible with the moral and financial support from our UK partners, particularly the Premier League, its chairman, Sir Dave Richards, London South Bank University and its FA coaches, the FA and the British Government. We have seen the impact that it has made in the lives of so many people in South Africa still believe the NSI and it associated initiatives will become one of the most recognised and respected legacy programs for the 2010 FIFA world cup and become an asset for South African and indeed African Soccer.