First impressions last forever, and after meeting the man behind the art of recruiting at Cape Town City, the impression couldn’t be truer. Grant Veitch is one of the most hardworking men and a complete purest, born and bred in Cape Town, whose late grandfather is one of the founding members of Hellenic back in the 50s and 60s. He studied Business Science at UCT but has always had a strong love and influence in football. Our vivid conversation went on for more than an hour and we got talking about how and why he got into scouting, his motivation or this aspect of football. 

In part one of a two-part special, Grant opens up to The Inside Post, explaining where it all began.

“It wasn’t a designated title essentially, what happened is I started off at Camps Bay and I ran a programme where Duncan Adonis and Shane Roberts – those kinds of players actually came out of it, funny enough. What I would do is just scout other teams that we played against, because I would be watching their games all the time and always just be thinking ahead.”

“I think that scouting and recruiting is always just about thinking ahead and trying to plan for the future. I started Hellenic with Mark Byrne. Took a lot of Camps Bay boys over to Hellenic with me as a starting point and then recruited. Starting Hellenic, we were starting afresh, we were starting with no players and a few Camps Bay and Blaauwberg City players that were left behind. We also got some players from the Western Cape Sports School which helped.”

“It was also about going out and looking for talent. I knew that I was the only one that would be doing it or because Mark (Byrne) was mainly on the field. He would watch a few games etc. My task was the administration and putting the structures in place and the finances in place and then going to look for the players. We did well with the first season at Hellenic with our juniors we competed with Ajax (Cape Town) and Mutual (Old Mutual Football Club) in our first year. Then I was like next year we need to bring in better. So, I just went out into the field and started meeting people. Started recruiting for Hellenic, I didn’t have a title at Hellenic, I think everyone just clubbed in and just did what they needed to do. I wasn’t officially the Head Scout, but that was my role, I would find the players.”

Here, already in his early days, we could see Grant flexing his recruitment abilities. The above-mentioned gems that came through the Camps Bay programme have gone on to play professional football in South Africa. This also highlights Veitch as a person who can start from scratch and develop operations from the ground up. His main weapon of destruction was his eye for talent at a very premature stage of his personal evolution as a scout.

“What happened because of the good coaching at Hellenic at the time and the intensity that we were playing at and they were being developed. It put some spotlight on the project. We had to just keep on doing better and better players wanted to join us. It was about me being more selective in our recruitment and refining what we wanted. We had our SAB League, which was quiet a young team, we won that league and lost in the play-offs. Then bought a ABC Mostepe League team. At that stage in my life the Mostepe League was a big league to be a part of. We had to actively go out and find players. Even at SAB we had young players and we didn’t have many older players.

“So, trying find those players, Mark (Byrne) was very helpful and Graham Purdy was very helpful in that process of bringing in older players. The likes of Craig Martin came through that system etc. It was amazing seeing those boys stepping up from SAB to Mostepe, especially someone like Craig, even Mikhail Jackson at the time.”

“We knew we had to strengthen and I knew Rushine De Reuck was back from Portugal and basically set up a meeting at Nandos in Maitland around my factory (Laurus Sports) and try to sign him and we did. That Hellenic team had Slovo, Thando Booi, Lionel Saal, (Craig) Martin, Shane Roberts, Alfonso Frazier who obviously a great player at that time. Therlo Moosa, Rushine (De Reuck), Riyaaz Ismail who is at Maritzburg now. So, in that Motsepe team we had a really good young team and built up a name. We’d also beat academies like Ajax (Cape Town) competing with them and Ajax would try to take our players.”

As time elapsed a lot of attention was drawn towards Grant’s Hellenic project and because of that success he wanted more and this led to him recruiting for their senior teams too. Which was obviously something new and different. He understood that and got people involved that knew the senior set up slightly more than himself. The help of Mark Byrne, a well-known Football developer in Cape Town and Graham Purdy the Durbanville Football Club Legend who has won so many trophies as a player and manager in the Cape Football fraternity, played a major role in his progression as a scout of not just youth football but senior football too.

“When we sold the franchise I decided to leave football entirely actually and then probably three or four months after that I got a call from John Comitis saying they are looking for someone to head up their recruitment. At the time I didn’t know much about PSL football. I knew a little bit but not a hell of a lot. Basically, just [kept] watching a lot of games. Getting familiar with the league, getting familiar with the players, getting familiar with the salary structures, getting familiar with the contract situations of the players, and just putting in the hard work so you know as much information as you can. Because if you do that then you the most well informed and then you can make the best decisions.”

“It’s not been easy because you are always fighting with people because there are agents involved. At Hellenic, a lot of clubs thought they were at a similar level and we would try and take players from them and try and promote the project and saying this is a way you can develop which it did work.”

“Cape Town City it has been easier and probably you know dealing with unscrupulous agents sometimes, there are good agents out there as well. It has its challenges, and you try and work with people to make sure you have good connections, and you try to get the best players. And when you have those players, you try and look after them to the best of your ability. Because you know scouting isn’t about taking a player, dumping him at your club and leaving him. You’ve signed him for a reason, and you need also believe in that player and also be a voice if the player wants to be released or if the coach is saying he needs to be released if you don’t think it’s right you need to also have a voice.”

New role: General Manager

We went on to speak about his overall new role as the General Manager of football development at the Citizens. The tone in his voice slightly changed because this was something he felt honoured to be entrusted with. Seeing it as an opportunity to galvanize Cape Town. Lamenting on what that would entail, who would be involved and the opportunities it would provide specifically for young players from Cape Town. Also the Dream Club Project which involves 100 clubs – unearthing diamonds is something he has his finger on.

“I’m the head of football development at the club. Which is just not the Head of Youth. My role would be running the youth and make sure the objectives are met at youth level. There so much talent in Cape Town and obviously there are other clubs who are have fallen by the way side and are struggling that maybe previously had a stronghold in getting the best youngsters.”

“Our intention now is to get the best young Cape Town talent aggressively and put them in a high intensity programme with the right food, the right gym. For the boys that can train twice a day. Also my job will be making sure that the mentality of players we get in is similar to what we spoke about… Zuki Kewuti and someone like Craig. Trying to get them in the mind-set that they are not at Cape Town City now, and they 16-year-olds and now they’ve made it. Because they very far from making it and try and get that mentality in place.”

There is a notion in the country that we settle for what is more comfortable. Using Bafana Bafana as a prime example. It’s clear that Grant understands the importance of sending as many boys to Europe as possible. Seeing it as a key component for improving the current national situation.

“Part of my role is also setting up European networks which I have already with guys like Man City, there is a few other clubs in Belgium, in Eastern Europe and in Scandinavia. Where we [want to] try and create a market place and where we can try send as much boys overseas as we can. Because we know the talent…like Man City the guy that found Jadon Sancho, Joe Shields, he came to Cape Town for a few weeks. It was part of a business venture where they were assessing Cape Town City Football Club to be part of the City group. But I took him into the townships, took him into the Cape Flats and I can send you the screenshot and he said [he likes] like the talent in Cape Town, the raw talent…he says he hasn’t been everywhere but his been a lot of places. He would say it’s in the top 5 of what his seen. But it’s about the mentality and the physicality I guess and also about trying to get them out sooner.”

So there you have it, we’ve always had the talent but developing our mental side of the game has a greater influence on our sustainable development going forward.

In the second part of our discussion we will touch on the first team recruitment at the Cape Town City, the challenges after youth recruitment, steps in climbing the ladder, treatment and relationships with clubs, and working towards the common goal.

COMING SOON Grant Veitch: General Manager of Cape Town City (Part 2)

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