In an exclusive sit-down interview with Goal, Sim Tours MD Rasthoem Simons discusses youth football challenges, the Sim Tour Eagles philosophy and the Atletico de Madrid Academy's first residential camp in Cape Town.
Being in the industry for over a decade, Sim Tours has been involved with youth development over much of this time.
What do you think are some of the key challenges facing youth football today?
The biggest challenge today is that the youth has more distractions than the youth of 20 years ago. Football is now preferred being played on a couch with a video game rather than outside. Social media has impacted that as well. Players see life as all glamour and instant gratification. This couldn't be further from the truth. So, coaches and parents must work a lot harder to get players to comprehend what’s needed to be a successful footballer and person in the real world.
Are there any solutions that can elevate the state of our football to achieve on the global platform?
Infrastructure is still a big problem in South Africa. Too many kids are still having to play in inferior conditions and the lack of structured leagues and programmes limits development. It was satisfying to hear the steps being taken by the MEC of Sports, Arts and culture in Gauteng Ms Mbali Hlope discussing the re-introduction of after school sport at some of the no-fee schools in the province. These types of initiatives will go a long way in assisting the development of the whole.
Sim Tours is bringing the Atletico de Madrid academy for the first time to Africa with the residential camp. What makes this different from the others out there?
Our aim is to provide various opportunities for the market. The residential camp still gives players from outside of Cape Town the opportunity to visit a new place whilst getting the experience of life training with one of the world’s top academies. The camp, much like our other camps is to provide players with the professional football experience, something that many only dream off. This also comes at a cheaper price point then touring internationally.
You have boys and girls and vastly different age groups attending-will the programme be different in each case?
Atletico de Madrid’s women team has won the Spanish league for the last three seasons. The club is doing something right when it comes to women's football and with the growth of the game in South Africa currently, it’s become an ideal opportunity for aspiring women footballers to learn about the ethos of the club.
Sim Tours has run tours and projects across SA as well as Europe and the UAE with impressive results…
Many times, these kids train together for a week at most - a reason for mediocre results often used by national team coaches. We pride ourselves in being able to get a group of kids from various backgrounds together to gel very quickly. The Eagles concept is something that will leave a legacy for many years to come. Our partner agency in the UAE Pinnacle Sports is also doing fantastic work in the region.
What have you found to be the 'X- factor' for the success of your teams?
Our staff and processes. Everyone at the company is passionate about what we do, and this comes across to parents and players in their interaction with us. This starts from the first enquiry right through to the end of each tour and/or activity. Our experience working all over the world also allows us to be able to integrate various cultures faster than most.
What have you found to be the most rewarding outcome from these tours for both you and the kids?
The fact that the boys make life long relationships within a short period. We also don't discriminate on ability so players from every level of football is made to feel a part of the team. Long gone are the days where only the talented players get the opportunity to participate in events and tours.
Players like Tebogo Mokena and Tyrone Mondi came through your setup. What makes those players stand up and stand out that saw them achieve success both on and off the field?
Both players always had the desire and will power to achieve. They made no excuses in their quest to achieve their dreams. They highly coachable and have the self-discipline which can be a problem with some of the talented players in our country.
Sim Tours brings the Fifa match agency experience to the table. What does a match agent do?
A Match Agent is accredited by Fifa to arrange and facilitate International football friendly games, training camps. The license is acquired by undergoing a strict vetting process and all agents must comply with annual regulations to maintain a license. The license brings peace of mind to federations and professional clubs globally.
How does this professional experience help in managing youth camps?
Sim Tours was created as a spin-off from Simsport International a company which has been operating in the international arena for more than 10 years working with clubs and associations. Our aim is always to give everyone the opportunity to experience life as a pro footballer at least once in their life. Whether this is on an International tour or a local camp with coaches from a top International club.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.