George Dearnaley


Former Bafana Bafana player and Chairman of Football Magic Foundation: George is a former international football striker who played for Hellenic FC, Seven Stars, AmaZulu and most notably Bafana Bafana in the 1994 World Cup qualifiers. George then applied his football skills and experience to a distinguished career in football media publishing with Kickoff magazine, Media 24 and Amakhosi magazine gaining in-depth knowledge of local and European football trends. He is now Chairman of The Football Magic Foundation with a focus on developing young South Africans for opportunities in the business of SA football.

My Definition Of Success | My current definition of success is having a happy family.  If your kids are happy and your partner is happy, then you are doing something right.  When I was younger, my holy grail was being a star, being famous, being on the cover of Shoot magazine!  I was never interested in money, I just assumed it would all work out if I was famous…  So my definition of success has changed over the years.  I value time with my children more than anything else.  I also think that if you wake up every morning knowing that you are doing something you love and that you are happy with your lot, then you are a success.

I Am Driven By | I’m driven by being better than I was the day before.  I’m driven by the idea that you can help make a difference to a young person’s life, and that it will impact on the people around that young person, and that in some small way it makes our country better.

My Highlights | The ultimate highlight is being a father – my girls are my proudest achievements.  Having a lot of people in my life that I care about is also something I am proud of – I am loyal to my friends and I am interested in what is going on in their lives. I’m also proud of my achievements as a footballer, representing South Africa in the 1st year of our re-admittance into FIFA, and winning the top goal scorer award in South Africa in 1992, but right now I am really proud of some of our success stories with young footballers in the last few years.  The Foundation that I am Chairman of is making a difference in the lives of young people – and these people are the future of our country.

The Difference Between Good And Great | Desire and passion.  That is the difference.  Obviously talent and skill are qualities that will give you an advantage in whatever field you work in and if you have talent or you have skill you will be good at what you do, but if you combine talent and skill with desire and passion then you are on your way to being great.  I also love the quote: “Hard work will beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”  That is why I always stress to my young players that having the right work ethic is the first step to success.

A Key Talent | I was once told by an older player that I was never going to be good enough to be a professional footballer.  I was 15 at the time.  I spent the whole night asking myself what I could do to prove that person wrong.  I wasn’t blessed with any significant talent or skill or speed, I just had good qualities in all those areas, but I decided that I had to work harder at my game.  I had to study the game, and learn from those around me with experience.  I started training harder the next day and have never looked back.  So perhaps the desire to make it, the mental toughness to overcome obstacles and objections and then the right work ethic!  There are no short cuts to success.

Principles I Live By | Be honest. Do the right thing. Never give up and always try your best.  It’s not always easy to live by these, especially when you are young and have so many distractions around you, but as I have got older I realise that this is the only way. There are times when I think I am too trusting, and I have been caught out a few times, but never more than once by the same person.  But it won’t change the way I live my life.

Dealing With Doubt | My knee was dislocated in April 1995 against Orlando Pirates.  I snapped 2 of my ligaments and was out injured for a total of 19 months.  I thought that my life was over.  I was depressed and probably bordering on going off the rails.  So I left SA, went to the USA for some rehab and once I could walk again I started coaching kids.  The change of scenery helped me re-evaluate my life.  When I saw the joy that the little kids got from kicking a ball around, it reminded me of why I played the game in the 1st place.  I decided to give it another go and when I came back my head was clear.  I knew it was just another obstacle that I had to overcome.  My leg was never the same after the injury, but my passion for the game has never diminished.  Looking back now, the injury was actually a blessing.  I found and married the girl of my dreams only because I had moved to another city because of my injury.  My children might not be in this World if my life hadn’t been disrupted.  You never know all the reasons; you just have to make the most of the situation.

Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I read a lot.  I studied history and literature at College and have always found inspiration from those who have conquered and achieved throughout history.  I also read across every category too – so I am not limited to only reading about footballers or only about football.  As an example I learnt a lot about preparation for a match by reading Von Clausewitz’ book ‘On War’.  I take inspiration from all the adventurers of the past who never thought about the negative consequences, they just went and did it.  Marco Polo!  Columbus, Magellan, Shackleton and all the others – they had a plan and they went for it.  I also like to be around positive people.  I’m a solutions based person – so don’t just tell me your problem, tell me what you think your solution is to your problem and let’s work on it together.  I prefer the crazy people too – they add spice to life.

My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I want my development team to become a professional team in the near future.  I want to help develop young South African footballers who will go and play for the greatest teams in the World – we have to aim higher!  I want to be a part of the most successful generation of South African footballers.  Currently the team of 1996 owns that title – a lot of them were my team mates – but I want to be involved in the development of the generation that will smash that title.  We have the talent we just need to have the right plan.

The Best Advice I’ve Received | After my injury in 1995, I had to have expert medical assessments about whether I could play professionally again.  The first 2 experts said I wouldn’t be able to handle the level of competition but the 3rd said to me that what was important was whether I thought I could play again.   I’m glad I listened to him.  So if you think you can do something, then go for it.

The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | My development football team in Cape Town is called The Magic FC.  I am also Chairman of The Football Magic Foundation – and I hope that in the future there will be a whole crop of Football Magic Foundation alumni who are captains of industry, creating opportunities for the next generation of kids who want to make a difference in the World.

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