Former Bafana Bafana player Elrio van Heerden has linked up with the Madibaz Football Club as their technical specialist coach.
This comes after the 36-year-old midfielder had been assisting the Nelson Mandela University team in recent years.
Madibaz Sport football manager Mark Tommy said it was a massive breakthrough for the club to have a player of his stature working under head coach Wayne Iveson.
“Madibaz Football has a proud history of growing Port Elizabeth talent and investing in the next generation of quality local coaches,” he said.
“Elrio is an international star, having left for Europe as an 18-year-old to play professionally and, since returning to South Africa, has been coaching young players in the city.
“We are really excited to have secured his services and his work with the students has been outstanding.”
Van Heerden, who earned 37 caps for Bafana, said “it is amazing” to be back where his soccer journey started over two decades ago.
From 1998 to 2001 he attended the Soccer School of Excellence at the then University of Port Elizabeth.
“It’s always good to come back to where you started and give something back to the young players of today,” he said.
Among his immediate aims is to help prepare the squad for the USSA tournament in December, where they will be aiming to secure a spot in next year’s Varsity Football competition.
“The quality is there and it’s a matter of bringing out the best in the players and getting them to believe they can do it,” he said.
“As much as they want it so do the other varsities, so it’s the one who puts in the hard work and stays disciplined who will achieve in the end.”
Members of the Madibaz club said they were enjoying the contribution Van Heerden was making to the squad.
Team captain Samuel Connelly said his impact had been “nothing but positive”.
“Every training session with coach Elrio we learn something new. These are sessions where we have to think and work hard at the same time.
“I think most people have the perception that training is always serious, but with coach Elrio and the management we have times where it’s just fun and games.
“That helps a lot with the intensity of some training sessions.”
Siwaphiwe Maso, who was selected for the Nedbank Ke Yona team this year, admitted he was a bit overawed at first in view of Van Heerden’s achievements.
“But he’s the one who cracked the joke and broke the ice,” he said. “We all laughed and became comfortable around him. He made us feel free and treated us the same.
“All I can say is that the players are always willing to push for more, because he brings the best out of them.”