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Sunday, 25 October 2020

Can Kenyan football develop without youth systems?

 

“Samaki mkunje angali mbichi.” This Swahili saying seems alien to Kenyan football. 

More than four decades since German Bernhard Zgoll unsuccessfully tried to transform Kenya into a football powerhouse through the Olympic Youth Centres, many promising youngsters wither without fulfilling their potential. 

Levy Ojuok, the founder of Mathare Goalkeepers’ Academy, believes that greed is an impediment to the growth of young talent into football greats.

“Most of the youth academies we have today are only after sponsorship. The focus is on exploiting promising talent for self-interest,” Ojuok says.

Former Gor Mahia forward Dan Makori believes that football stakeholders want immediate results and are thus reluctant to place their trust in nurturing talent.

“Many clubs prefer the finished products in form of foreigners rather than invest in upcoming players. What [former coach] the late James Siang'a did at Gor Mahia in tapping young talents at the grassroots laid the foundation for the club to dominate the local football scene for many years to come,” Makori says.

If Kenya had persevered with Zgoll’s vision, the country would have been a factory of world-class footballers with technical know-how, mental fortitude and discipline.

“There should be a rule requiring each club to have its own academy consisting of all age groups, such as under 10s all the way to under 20. Just like other careers are treated seriously at the school level, we should also inculcate a football curriculum in our education system,” Ojuok advises.

Ambrose Ayoyi, Bobby Ogolla, Josephat Murila and Wilberforce Mulamba — products of the Olympic Youth Centres — are evidence that investment in youth pays dividends.

For Kenya to follow the footsteps of developed economies that keep springing up world beaters by the day, football stakeholders need to resurrect Zgoll's spirit and banish greed and selfish interest to the doldrums.  

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