The world cup came and went with France taking the trophy to the chagrin of some or celebration of others. The sheer preparations and subsequent execution of the global fete blew the minds of everyone who watched it.
Those of us who watched it alongside our children are still calling each other names like Romeli Lukaku, Antonie Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, Eden Hazard and so on because they left quite an impression on us. Some kids went a little further with their admiration and are hounding their parents to let them join soccer academies to nurture their talents and become household names in future as well.
With the dismal and sometimes disappointing performance of our National team, Harambee stars, at international tournaments it is understandable that a parent would want to know if soccer academies are worth it.
In an interview with Afromum.com, former Ligi Ndogo coach Arthur Otieno, who is now plying his trade in Germany said that they are definitely worth it. He added that it is important children start playing at an early age—ideally aged two or three—to get better results.
“It is important for kids to start playing football early.The fact that the ball is round is in itself a challenge and plays a big factor in enhancing the child’s motor skills for later in life. At this age a child is encouraged to use both the hands and feet. The more contact a kid has the better. Coaches at this age have to be very innovative so as to create such an atmosphere for each and every kid on the pitch. The emphasis at this age is to have control of the ball,” said Arthur
According to him, a coach should always encourage the child to play with the right part of the foot by the ages of 5 to 7. Starting with simple exercises which involve many repetitions is key. It always advisable to finish a training session with an endgame, usually a 5 vs 5 or less in the quarter of a soccer pitch that approximately measures 30 by 50 meters is realistic.
Apart from the soccer skills, Coach Arthur says that the child learns other aspects that can come in handy e.g. communication, discipline, competitiveness, sharing and achieving, which acts as a motivator for the next training.
The sentiments of the coach are echoed by a statement on the German School Football Centre website that adds occupying children on Saturdays, integrating German students into the larger Kenyan community and helping to nurture talents of children from poor backgrounds as other benefits of soccer academies.
Apart from the holistic learning that most soccer academies seem to offer, there is also the fact that graduates of soccer academies around the world are doing so well professionally. For instance, the Manchester United soccer academy gave the world players such as Bobby Charlton, George Best, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard.
There is also Schalke 04 that gave us Mesut Ozil and Manuel Neuer as well as the Santos that raised Pele, Neymar da Silva and Robinho (Robson de Souza). FC Barcelona, on the other hand, trained Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto.
Unknown to many people, some of our soccer academies have their own success stories as well. A good case in point is Tottenham’s Victor Wanyama who is a graduate of JMJ Academy, and Michael Olunga from Ligi Ndogo Academy who now plays in La Liga. Other graduates of the school include Swedish international player John Guidetti, Kenyan internationals such as Ayub Masika, Edwin Lavatsa, Humphrey Mieno and Jesse Were are also from Ligi Ndogo and so is Alex Karmo who plays for the Liberian national team.
Apart from churning out players of international repute, there are Kenyan soccer academies that have played internationally and thrashed foreign teams resoundingly. Such teams include the Acakoro soccer academy that participated in one of Europe’s toughest youth cups and defeated top European clubs Barcelona and Athletico Madrid youth teams last year.
With such household names playing in local and international leagues it shows that with better governance and structures we might have our own playing at the world cup in future. In this regard, a good example is the Santos from Brazil that has 92 soccer academies across the world and that invests 10% of its total annual income into their youth academy.
According to coach Arthur, Kenya can get to such levels of success if they work on some differences with the way Kenyan stakeholders (parents, coaches, well-wishers and government) handle the soccer academies vis a vis those in the western world.
“The expectation of parents, both in Europe and the few in Kenya (who attend their kid’s training) differ depending on the club. Most parents are not very sure about what to expect from their kids when playing soccer. This is attributed to the lack of knowledge of the youth coaches who mostly act as volunteers. In countries with developed football structures, there is a lot of effort put in place to impact the right l knowledge to these youth coaches,” said Arthur
“On the other hand, Kenyan parents have not embraced sports as one of the aspects of a child’s growth and that is quite unfortunate. They are never present to watch their children train and play. The coach is left to play both roles. That is the biggest factor affecting our soccer at all youth levels to the U19. The last point is the school curriculum has to be sports oriented. The government is trying this where high schools are concerned but not much is being done for the very young children,” said Arthur
Although they are obviously not yet there yet, some parents are really trying. Wanjiru Kiiru, whose child attends the Kick It Kenya soccer academy is enthusiastic about the game since little Nathaniel Kiiru started playing.
“I hardly ever miss a game. Little Nate really loves the game and enjoys hanging pout and interacting with his friends. He has also improved socially and is actually quite good. Iam ready to support him to the end,” said Wanjiru.
Coach Arthur adds that children who have an interest in soccer have to given a chance to enhance their skills under an environment conducive for such training. Most of the small-sided competitive games should also be organised every weekend as well. Soccer, as any other sport, is all- inclusive. When one of the four parties (teachers, parents, coaches and federation) do not participate fully at the youth level then soccer cannot reach the desired level.
As the stakeholders work towards the above recommendations by coach Arthur, let us look at some of the active soccer academies in Kenya,
1. FISA soccer academy
Friendship International Sports Academy (FISA) was founded in 2006 by its directors, Dr Maurice Awang Owuor and Amit Shah. The academy draws children and teenagers from neighboring neighborhoods of Mukuru slum and South B. Some of FISA graduates include; Paul Were who plays for Kalamata FC in Greece, Kevin Omondi who played for Gor Mahia and Moroka Swallows in South Africa, Musa Mohamed who plays for Gor Mahia and Victor Ashinga who plays for Thika United.
FISA currently trains children and teenagers in the groups of under 8, under 10, under 12, Under 14, under 18 and under 20.
- The German School Football Centre
The German Centre Football Centre was founded in January 2013 in order to offer quality training and competitive matches on Saturdays to those students who want to play football beyond the level of an extra-curricular activity. Following the School’s policy of social and cultural integration, the “Centre” also invites the Kenyan neighbourhood for membership.
The new centre offers training with competent coaches over three seasons per year for children aged 5 to 13 from the school and neighbouring communities. A fee of 7,000 KES per player per season is charged. Kids from disadvantaged backgrounds from Kiambu, Githongoro, Baba dogo, and Kibera are not required to pay anything to join.
The objectives of the GSFC program include:
- Offering children a healthy occupation on Saturday mornings
- Detecting and fostering talent through competent training
- Integrating the German School into the larger Kenyan community
- Promoting the school as a centre of comprehensive quality education
The GSFC looks back to a successful development over the past 5 years. On paper, the Centre has now 130 members and on average 110 children in the age groups “Under”7, U9, U11, U13, U15, U17, and U19 attend training on Saturdays. For U13 we also have a girls’ team
Limuru Road, opposite Village Market
P.O. Box 978, 00621 Nairobi, Kenya
+254 (0)721-25 84 17
+254 (0)733-44 56 85
+254 (0)705-91 57 50
- Express Soccer Academy
Express Soccer Academy is one of the best leading soccer academies in Kenya, based in Nairobi. The academy has two programs school-based and Saturday programs both for boys and girls. The academy has been in existence since 2014 and delivers both introductory and competitive soccer programs to school children in fun and safe soccer environment in Nairobi.
The academy targets children between the ages of three and fifteen years and provides different football pathways to excellence based on their abilities and preferences, this is done through tournaments, international camps and residential camps in partnership with international football academies.
Main Training Center: Hillcrest Preschool, Langata Road, Karen
Between 8000 and 13000
Address line, Nairobi, 26199 – 00100
020 388 2150 Office line
0720 094 049 Director
- Ligi Ndogo
Launched in 2002, Ligi Ndogo is probably the most well-known soccer academy in Kenya and its main objective was to create an enabling environment for young people to nurture their soccer skills outside a normal learning curriculum. The academy caters to youths across various age groups and social-economic divide having different teams in each age category at the various centres. Here, children are taught aspects such as soccer skills, discipline, team spirit, leadership and responsibility hence resulting in a well-honed individual.
Ligi Ndogo is structured as a soccer league holding regular matches and training sessions within its 3 seasons per year i.e. (JAN-APR), (MAY-AUG), (SEP-DEC). From an early age of 4 years, one can register their child at the soccer academy where they undergo trainings on selected days each week. Upon registration, players are categorized based on their age. Atoms (4-6 years), Juniors (7-9 years), Lower Mids (10-12), Upper Mids (13-14 years) and seniors (15-17years). From the categories, players are further assigned to teams which train once a week either Friday or Thursdays (4:30p.m-6:20p.m) and play their league matches every Saturday
Contacts: Ligi Ndogo grounds along Ngong Road next to the RFUEA Rugby grounds, South B centre (located at the Railway Training Institute grounds near Hazina Estate) Gigiri (located at German School Gigiri, opposite Village Market) and Nairobi Academy located in Karen.
Open ⋅ Closes 5:30PM
Phone: 0712 333222
- Acakoro Football Academy
Nairobi’s very own Acakoro Football academy is seen as one of the best academies in the world taking down top European teams admired, the world over. It annually takes part in the Donauauen Cup, one of the world most challenging youth championships in the world.
Address: Patreva Heights, Ground floor, Kamunde Road, Nairobi
Phone: 0740 636639
- Totosport Academy
Totosports Academy is a Coeducational training centre dedicated to providing excellence in the development of young soccer players. The centre provides a challenging and enriching environment for students boys and girls of all ability ages (4-16yrs)
Contact Details: 0713185472
- Liberty Academy
The academy is based in Nairobi has over 25 youngsters who turn up to be fed with football basics every morning on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays and over the holidays.
Training is held at the City Stadium over the mentioned days. Liberty Sports Academy has produced Kenya’s most potent strikers such as Michael Olunga, Nicholas Meja and Charles Bruno who have played for various KPL teams.
8. JMJ Academy
JMJ academy in Nairobi West has produced several footballers who play in top flight European leagues. Tottenham midfielder Victor Wanyama is a product of JMJ academy.
Other talents nurtured at JMJ academy include Ayub Timbe who currently plays as a forward for Beijing Renhe in the China League One, Johanna Omolo who plays for Belgian club, Royal Antwerp and Edwin Otieno Oluoch who played for Belgian Third division C side Sk Moelingen and several other clubs.