Growing up, I remember how we used to knit old polythene wrappers into a spherical thing that served as our soccer ball. We played in the streets as there were no established football fields. The few that were there were either reserved for the big boys and established teams or they were in bad state. We played without guidance from an established player or coach. In case of injuries, we attended to each other and this subjected us to some unforeseen future injuries. Were we happy? Definitely. Playing in the rain even without any protective gear was sort of fun. Some of the immensely talented guys were, unfortunately, never discovered to further their careers in the sport.
Kenya’s got talent but it’s only discovered by accident. When a tournament in the rural areas is held and there are coaches in attendance, the best player may get lucky to be selected. However, chances are very limited for this to happen. Very few make it to the national team despite their talent. The national football team has been performing dismally for many years. Year in year out it has not featured in the 100 top clubs in the world according to FIFA rankings. When nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Algeria and Ivory Coast are boasting of having many players playing in the prestigious leagues in Europe, Kenya is represented by few known players such as Victor Wanyama.
Many challenges face this sport in Kenya leading to the below-per-performance. Corruption in the management of the football bodies, under-qualified trainers and failure to identify and tap talent are some of the major problems faced. Stakeholders have tried to salvage the situation but has all been in vain.
The answer lies in the establishment of well-structured soccer academy that is independently run. FIFA trained coaches will be flown into the country to identify untapped talent and offer training lessons to the discovered players. Safaricom in partnership with MPD (My Professional Dream) Academies yesterday launched Safaricom Next Generation. This is a world-class football programme that will transform young talent into professional football prowess.
The football academy’s programme will commence in January 2016 after vigorous search for talent is conducted in 8 regions in Kenya. This is a genuine search for talent that will discover at least 75 players both boys and girls who stand to reap the benefits below:
Exposure to best training.
Coaches who are UEFA trained will be flown into the country to offer master classes to the group of young players that will be selected during the regional and national trials starting in October. These coaches have immense experience that will be used to impact to these young players.
Opportunity to play with the best talent
The trained players will get to play with some of the best players trained in the established academies from around the world. This competition will help them to learn from each other and thus better their skill.
Playing in the national team
All the selected players will be immensely talented and they will receive world-class training from the coaches to maintain and even better their skills. Out of these, a team to represent Kenya in the major competitions will be selected. This will be real game changer as all of them will have trained together for long and there will be synchrony in how they play.
Whenever a player is discovered, there’s another one waiting to be discovered. That’s the nature of the game. It acts like a conveyor belt of sorts. The Safaricom Next Generation will offer this. Players between the ages of 11 and 16 will be trained and released to play for major leagues once they become of age. This will solve the problem of the vacuum in young talent that has been there in Kenya for long.
The requirements for admission to the academy are ability to play, discipline and positive attitude to the game. Parents and guardians will have to approve prior to the selection of the kids.Interested players can submit their applications to be invited to the regional try-outs in their preferred regions by filling in application forms available at registration spots to be announced soon or online on www.mpdnextgeneration.com