The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) wants its soccer programme to be rated among the top three in South African university circles and newly-appointed head coach – Durban-born ex-Bafana Bafana and German Bundesliga player Delron Buckley (43) – says he will give his all to help achieve that.
Buckley also aims to get UKZN football sides and players at all levels to be the best they can be with talented individuals going on to develop and improve to the extent they win places in the national squad or get professional contracts with clubs. (UKZN’s 2019 men’s captain Nqubeko Dlamini was recently awarded a contract with PSL club Lamontville Golden Arrows.)
“The University has hired me to help the side be successful and win, while playing top football at a high level,’’ said Buckley. “Ultimately, they want UKZN to be the best university team in South Africa and if we reach that pinnacle that will be a huge achievement. I have to see how things go before making up my mind about any changes and start implementing on how I think development should operate.”
Buckley, who grew up in the tough Durban suburb of Sydenham, has been widely welcomed by UKZN players and officials alike.
Said vice-captain and first-year BSc student Mxolisi Mthiya: “Our new coach is top class and has the full backing of the team. He is clear about what he wants and that is for the team to score goals and win games. We are all excited about what he brings – we couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
And manager of Student Health and Sport at UKZN Mark Bashe: “Delron is a great acquisition for us. We would love to see him create a new football strategy for UKZN and help us achieve our ambitions which include being among the top three University teams in whatever competition we participate in and to have a good side to send to the African Universities Championships in Ghana next year.”
On his move to UKZN, Buckley – who is on a three-year contract – said he had coached teams in South Africa’s Professional Soccer League (PSL) but saw this opportunity as a new challenge – “…and I love challenges. I enjoy developing players and helping them reach their full potential – where I am now gives me ample opportunity to do that.”
The men’s first team, known as UKZN Impi, play in two major annual competitions this year – the FNB-sponsored Varsity Football Tournament in Pretoria and the University Sports South Africa tournament (USSA) in Cape Town. They won the USSA competition in 2018 while the best they have done at the Varsity Football Top 8 event is sixth. This year, the games will all be held under “bio-bubble” conditions because of Covid-19.
That soccer is popular at the University is crystal clear – more than 4000 men and women play the game at various levels on the different campuses!
Buckley has published a book titled My Life in which he describes his journey to becoming a top flight international soccer player.
He got his big break when aged just 17 he was signed by the Bundesliga club VfL Borchum where he stayed for nine years scoring 20 goals in his 177 appearances.
Buckley continued his international club soccer career until 2012 when he returned to South Africa after 19 years in Europe, joining Maritzburg United making 43 appearances for the club before retiring from the game to take up a post as AmaZulu Football Club’s Assistant coach and later a similar position at Maritzburg United.
During this time, he was also a member of the Bafana Bafana squad (73 appearances, 10 goals), and played at the World Cup tournaments in France in 1998 and in Japan/Korea in 2002 as well as at the Olympic Games in Australia in 2000.