Talented African Youth Players Should Be Given More Guidance

July 18, 2013 10:13 pm0 comments by:

WC UNDER 20

I often debate sports with my friends and work colleagues. We discuss about our favourite players, managers, teams and any hot topics.Generally,the outcome of the hot topics ends in a stalemate.However,there is one topic that we all seem to agree upon,most promising young talents do not progress from the youth team to the senior team .

In my opinion,there are 3 broad factors that hinders young talents realising their potential.The 3 factors are psychological, technical or physical. In most cases, it is the psychological/mental or physical fitness factors rather than the technical skills. It starts with the young players not given the right guidance or career path.It is also a fact that a good number of them pick up injuries too early in their careers..

I watched the recent 2013 African Cup of Nations on TV.Majority of the players in the squad have not come through from their youth teams.For instance, in the Nigerian squad,Ahmed Musa is the only one, from the team that competed, in the last 2011 World Under -20 held in Colombia.

In my view, the level of technical skill required to compete in the senior levels is not so different from the youth level.. An assessment of a player’s overall quality is mainly subjective, backed by some objective information. This is evident with the endless argument, about who is the best footballer in the world.

Currently, Messi is widely considered as the best football player .Neymar who is 21 years old,is considered the young pretender to the throne. Neymar is a good player, who plays for Brazil’s National team. He advanced through the youth team,to the senior level, courtesy of right guidance and financial support. However, there are better talented young players with similar technical skills, who have not progressed to their senior squad

Recently, the 2013 World under 20 was held in Turkey and won by France
I wonder how many of the stars of the tournament, will make it to the senior level. Egypt, Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria represented Africa in the tournament. Ghana and Nigeria made it beyond the group stages. Nigeria lost to Uruguay in the last 16, with Ghana losing to France in the semi-final. A number of young talents with the right guidance, can become the future stars of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. But,they have to be given support, just like Neymar to stand a chance of breaking into the senior level.I have number of young African players that fall into this group
.
Ramy Rabia is 19 years old and the captain of the Egyptian under 20 Team.He plays the centre half position, for the national team and for his homeland club Al Ahly.Already, has 5 caps for the senior national team, to show his technical ability for the next level. The rumour is that a few top European teams are monitoring his progress. Ramy has a club team mate also, in the youth national team, who has a promising future.

Mahmod Hassan commonly nicknamed the Egypian Trezequet plays as an attacking midfielder for the youth team.He scored the opener, in the last group match against England and was integral in helping Egypt win the match.He is a very confident attacking player .He has already attracted interest from the French club Lille, this year.
In the Nigerian team, Abdul Ajagun stands out as the best player. He has space awareness and accurate passing abilities to match the vision. Abdul has a lot of experience of international youth competitions , having played in the 2009 Under-17” s team, the 2011 and 2013 Under-20’s team.He scores goals to complement his role as a midfielder. Hopefully, he can follow Ahmed Musa into the senior squad as a integral player.

Ghana finished 3rd,in the recent FIFA world under 20 tournament held in Turkey. They beat Iraq 3-0 in a third place playoff match. One of the player’s Ebenzer Assifuah 20 year old striker, finished as the top scorer in that competition. He scored 6 goals to finish above Burma from Portugal and Jese from Spain. Ebenezer plays for Liberty professional FC in Ghana. But, his exploits has attracted interest and enquiries. Already, Umar Aminu also in the Nigerian squad with a lesser strike record has joined the Turkish second division team Samsunspor.

Ramy, Mahmod, Ajagun, Ebenezer have the potential to play in the senior level, but need guidance to have the best possible chance. In african,the number of players advancing to the senior national team is very low.
For example, the Mali senior team that competed in the 2013 AFCON Finals only picked 3, that represented the country in the 2011 World under 20 tournament held in Colombia.Although this is better than Brazil that won the tournament. (only Oscar in the 2013 Confederation Squad held in Brazil.) The difference is that Africa needs to succeed at the senior level. Africa has a proud record in youth competitions with Ghana and Nigeria having won the World under 20 and under 17 competitions.

There should be more players progressing from the youth team to the national squad.FIFA.com asked the last Nigerian under 20 Coach John Obuh, in an interview ,his views about what is important to coach young players.He pointed out the mental aspect as a crucial factor.

He said”The psychological aspect is crucial and that’s what you can have the most influence on. The goal is to make sure that, later on, they’re strong enough mentally to get through the difficult moments that inevitably come. This is the best time to talk to them, explain this crucial side of football and make them understand that everything is linked: you have to be strong in your mind as well as physically fit.”

“It’s an important competition because if you don’t do things well at this level, you won’t go on to succeed at the level above. It’s a final hurdle before joining the elite. There are a lot of players who will move from the U-20 team to the senior team, so it’s important to perform well”.

His comments should be taken seriously, as an experienced coach at the youth level.He has managed the Nigerian squad in the 2011 and 2013 tournaments. He also played the professional game with Julius Berger, a professional club in Nigeria Premier league.

In my view, the agents, football governing board and mentors the youth also have the duty to provide the right guidance. Everyone involved with the youth set up should do more than their current effort. In turn, the National Teams will thrive in senior competitions.At the youth level,this is the time for improving mental strength

I have a quote from Ebenzer Assifuah, when asked whether his performances in the 2013 World under 20 tournament will lead to better things. It’s not up to me. with help from above I hope I can go far. That’s what I pray for”

Obioma Aguocha
Self Publisher:The Guide to being the Best (Paperback) 2007 & Sporting Success Simplified (E-book) 2012

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