Every single country, every single club, every serious football entity always looks forward to the future with optimism, with hope that the young men and women they have in their youth set-ups would all one day turn to be the stars of tomorrow.
Not a foreign/new idea to the Kenyan game, it’s a pity that youth football hasn’t been taken seriously except for a few academies run privately or by communities that struggle from time to time to stay afloat. Kenya Premier League the body tasked with the running of the league thus wouldn’t have gotten it wrong having KPL junior sides take part in a tournament.
While it’s a welcome idea and one that needs to be thoroughly applauded, we will all agree more needs to be done. The game has suffered a lot due to the unavailability of such initiatives; the challenges/undeniable facts that face the country’s game cannot be denied. Is this a start to embracing the problem and seeking to tackle it or is it just another way round the problem?
Certainly for an U19 tourney, each team is expected to present a lad probably 19 to as young as 16/15. A honest competition always brings out the best in players, honest analysis of the future and even build a much better platform for future developments regarding that particular level of the game.
At this point it shouldn’t be assumed that I’m questioning the honesty of the players, their coaches or even the clubs regarding the age issue but what if proper background checks were done well in advance before the tourney kicked off.
With a short time span to verify ages of players, it’s hard for KPL to actually trace the history of the players (verifying every single detail) and clear them to be able to take part in the tourney.
An MRI scan in this part of the world might not be easy to come by but for honesty sake- more money has been spent on much more non-important stuff and hiring one for such purposes should be a welcome idea. With an MRI- it’s not right to say honesty shall be 100% achieved but the margin of truth shall be absolutely close to call.
With a serious plan for the future, in conjunction with the federation- more time should be given for scrutiny and proper tests for age. It’s also only right that absolute caution and honesty is adhered to so the aim of improving soccer from a young age is achieved and honest young men not locked out on what would have been a chance to showcase their talent to the world.
How many times have you heard this word used before in football- I guess severally.
While the future of Kenyan Football is showcased in a tourney like this- a few honest questions should be addressed. How many of these teams have their own academies? How many of these players have played together for even a month? What happens once the tournament is over? Is a tournament a long term objective or is a league system a much better way of promoting the game?
While we may not have all the answers, it’s fair to note apart from Thika United (KPL U19 defending champions) not so many KPL sides have established U19 sides. Financial constraints might be attributed to this but again it doesn’t look like most teams are keen on setting up such structures. The tradition hasn’t been there in the past and high schools have been relied upon as talent producing hubs but with the country seeking to move to more professional levels- its right to note, the earlier teams set up such youth sides the better for them.
While a tourney may last for a week or two- a league is a much better way of exposing the lads to much more different environments and realities associated with the game. A home match may be different from an away match setting- the crowds, pitches, treatment by the hosts, weather just to mention a few. Exposing a player to such experiences at a younger age gives him a rough example of what to expect when he finally makes it to the senior side and enables him learn how to react when presented with certain situations. It also gives the coaches an idea of what a player would be and how he reacts when subjected to certain changes.
I will not utterly bash the U19 tourney idea but the thought that after a tourney like this, players have to part is absolutely hurting. For most teams that never get past the group stages- it’s a shaming reality that the short time used for training would bear (no maximum) fruits. For those who manage to make it to the latter stages of the tourney, a worthwhile chance might be in the offing but as always- just how sure are you?
It’s a fallacy to imagine that just two weeks/three weeks/a month of football can allow a proper U19 side to jell together- I believe a proper youth side needs lots of time, constant monitoring and frequent tweaking here and there to bring out a properly established playing unit.
While competition is stiff and winning the tourney a plus, the whole idea of football development shouldn’t be thrown out of the window. A bond brings out the best in a team under any circumstance; a quick fix might fix quickly but certainly with a little pressure comes the disintegration.