This is literally my brother’s dream, or every little boy’s fantasy, to get a chance to someday play professional soccer, maybe even at an international level. A chance to get millions across the world watching you anxiously, while you’re moments away from scoring the winning goal. However football training doesn’t come cheap, and while there may be talent lurking in our country, very few resources are in place to realize the same. This is worsened by traditional parents, who don’t see anything else other than academic education as a priority. “All those artsy and sporty talents can wait till you finish school”, oh how many times have I heard this. This demotivates those who would love to do more with their abilities. The only issue with football is that it’s a sport for the young and energetic, the sooner you get into it, the better.
The Safaricom Next Generation embarked on an initiative to discover young talent from a variety of social classes, between September and November 2015. Chances were given to those who previously had no opportunity. Eight tryouts were carried out across the country, assessing the participant’s skill, speed, fitness, agility and their understanding of the game. The players were trained month after month, with up to 75 finalists chosen to continue vigorous training.
“Safaricom Next Generation is about offering hope to talented young boys and girls who would otherwise not get this opportunity. We are proud of the youngsters who have succeeded in securing placement into the academy. We believe this programme is going to transform their lives positively as we continue to uplift the sports agenda in Kenya,” said Stephen Chege, Director – Corporate Affairs, Safaricom.
57 boys and 18 girls between the ages of 11 to 16 years, have managed to get placement in the My Professional Dreams (MPD) Academy, a football talent programme designed to identify and nurture football talent. While there, the young footballers will be offered coaching, nutrition development, mental exercises, and testing fixtures with professional teams as well as trials at professional football clubs. If that’s not enough, some of the seventy five selected players could also be selected to travel to Portugal for trials in the coming months depending on their progress.
Several players from Africa had gotten their big break while training in various football academies. Gnégnéri Yaya Touré, from Ivory Coast joined the ASEC Mimosas youth academy in 1996, and is now plays midfielder for Manchester City. While Pierre-Emerick Emiliano François Aubameyang, who joined Borussia Dortmund for a whopping £9 million, was originally from Gabon. Before his immense achievements in the football world, he had enrolled in Milan’s youth team back in January 2007. With this new soccer opportunity, will we be seeing more of our Kenyan finalists influencing international football matches in several years to come?
“We are keen on producing a new generation of young professional footballers who will present Kenya both regionally and in world championships. We identified a large number of talented young people throughout the trials and although many of them did not make it to the top 75, it is clear that this country needs more football programmes in order to channel all that talent into good use.” he Mr. O’Neill.