Next Best Thing; The Kingly Kelechi Iheanacho

The Future Of Nigerian Football | Kelechi Iheanacho
The Future Of Nigerian Football | Kelechi Iheanacho
Get Used To It... | #Banter
Get Used To It… | #Banter

In a world where the “next best thing” is always a hot commodity, one cannot describe how pleasant it is to browse the papers over a pint skimming through an article about the next exciting football prospect worth going down to the betting store over and putting down some Randela’s on them becoming top class internationals. Now very few of these protégés end up becoming the greats they were hyped up to be by the glowing reviews, as my bookmakers bank balance will attest to; but the journeys  I have undergone tracking many of these young players has been worth every single penny scraped into a bet.

#TheTalentScout

The City Football Academy is a £150m youth development work of art, the picturesque pitches and state of the art training facilities are nothing short of jaw-dropping and befitting of the desire shown by the current owners to develop elite level ready home-grown talent that can lead the club to glory in the future. The mandate has not seemed to coincide with what we have seen on the pitch over the last couple of seasons and bar the brief cameo from José Ángel Pozzo during a mini injury crisis, we have not seen many Manchester City Elite Development Squad members graduating into to first team squad and being preferred over a highly paid acquisition. All that is rumoured to change this season, the leggy former champions are rightfully seeking to inject some youth and fresher talent to a first team squad that was beginning to seem complacent and uninterested for large parts of the season gone by.

Its October of 2013 and the best young players from the best u-17 nations in the world are gathering to battle it out for the FIFA U-17 World Cup and become the best u-17 nation in the realm; while many have their personal teams to watch and possible winners in mind, the tournament ends with Nigeria claiming at 4th FIFA U-17 World Cup crown and the trophy is held aloft by a No:10 who seems to finally be the answer to the great African debate and proven that we might still get another Augustine “Jay-Jay” Okocha in our lifetime. Kelechi, or Nacho as he is affectionately known, came to prominence in this highly entertaining competition as he led an undefeated Golden Eaglets side to the title, the team was marvellous in all departments and their dominance was exemplified by an attacking symphony orchestrated by the talented trequartista named Kelechi. Nigeria scored 26 goals in their 7 games with Kelechi having a foot in 13 of those strikes; his personal performances were commended with his announcement as the Golden Ball winner for the Player of the Tournament, beating Nathan of Brazil who recently signed for Chelsea F.C, and also being awarded the Silver Boot for second most goals scored, beating Boschilla of Brazil due to his higher assist numbers. Kelechi left the United Arab Emirates having scored 6 goals and assisted 7 with scintillating performance that had scouts, pundits and writers alike from across the realm raving about his potential and raw ability.

Kelechi chose his preferred destination after being linked to some of the best sides in the realm and was released from the Nigeria senior national squad training camp preparing for the 2014 African Nations Championship, to head over to Manchester and sign a pre-contract with Manchester City with the intention of moving to the club in October after his 18th birthday as legally permissible by law for foreign players in the UK. The now world renowned talented playmaker returned home to have his spectacular year capped off by being awarded the CAF Most Promising Young Talent of the Year at the Awards Gala and brought Nigeria an accolade they had not won since 2006 where they enjoyed a spell of 4 consecutive winners with Obafemi Martins winning it in 2003 and 2004, while John Obi Mikel stormed to take the award in 2005 before Taye Taiwo took it in 2006. Winning this award proved that Kelechi was indeed the premier young African talent in the realm and that Manchester City had just secured the services of a future legend in the making, the worthy heir apparent to a throne that had been vacant for long enough.

Kelechi joined the City squad for their pre-season tour of the USA for the 2014-15 season, the wunderkind showed why he is a highly touted teenage prodigy with some impressive performances and a goal in two encounters on the tour, 4-1 and 5-1 victories over Sporting Kansas City and AC Milan respectively showcasing glimpses of his ability swim with the big fish in the ocean of talent at City. Work permit hold-ups lead to Manchester arranging for Kelechi to remain in the States with Columbus Crew, as a favour to former City star Claudio Reyna, with the view of ensuring that his development does not stall or see his game regress due to a lack of competitive football and training at a high level. The work permit came through in January of 2015 and Kelechi begun to officially train with the Manchester City Elite Development Squad under the tutelage of the legendary Patrick Vieira, while injuries and acclimatisation may have stalled his development a t the squad a tad bit, Kelechi still managed to finish the season as a player that seems ready for a shot at the first team level in the Sky Blue jersey with his performances and application to his development.

There are many within Africa, and within GSV, that felt as though Kelechi could stall at City and eventually become the African version of Michael Johnson due to the lack of opportunities to play for the side and their reluctance to loan him out to a league where he could have been playing regularly while developing and proving his first team readiness. City stuck to their guns and they seem to be ready to promote a few lads from their Elite Development Squad into the first team for the coming season, while I personally laugh at the thought of Kelechi being called a Manchester City development product, I have immense joy in my heart at the thought of him fulfilling his potential and showing his God-given class and artistry at the highest level and Lord willing, brining some more success to City. We saw how he was demoted down the pecking order at u/20 level for Nigeria as he played a pit part role during the recent 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand where the squad failed to show their u/17 level form and eventually finished the tournament in 11th place after advancing 2nd out of Group E and coming unstuck against the then undefeated Germany side who knocked them out of the tournament in the Round of 16. Kelechi only featured in 2 games during the tournament as Musa Yahaya of Tottenham Hotspur and Success Isaac of Granada carried the burden of trying to carry the attacking unit; the lack of evident development is has game I beyond worrisome, yet the lad has been blessed with a raw skill-set that still manages to shine through all his rough edges.

While £150m is a truck load of money to spend at any level of business, it can easily be the best piece of business Manchester City have ever done since coming into their wealth; an ambitious and well run youth academy will always interest young players and their folks, when that academy is combined with opportunities in a thriving first team that plays a great brand of football, youth coaches start having good headaches over who is better than who in a deep talent pool and that only bodes well for a club moving forward when the talent is managed right.  Manchester City wooed Kelechi over to the United Kingdom because they showed him that he could become a star in their galaxy of established stars and be afforded the best possible opportunities to fulfil his talent and become one of the best footballers on the planet, now it’s time for both parties to fulfil their promise; the football fraternity will be an even more entertaining place with a thriving Kelechi showing his class at the elite level and Bob’s the brother of your Kano Pillars supporting Okoman.

Kelechi Iheanacho

Bio

Full Name: Kelechi Promise Iheanacho

DoB: October 3rd, 1996 (18)

PoB: Owerri, Imo State; Nigeria

Height: 1, 85m

Position: Attacking Midfielder,  Advanced Playmaker, Trequartista, Deep-Lying Forward, Advanced Forward

Preferred Foot: Left

Club: Manchester City F.C.

Jersey No: #72

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2016

Market Value: € 100 000

Development Academy: Taye Academy

Caps & Goals: N/A (Nigeria u/13, u/15, u/17 & u/20 International)

Half-Time Orange For Thought; Lack Of Patriotism Or Lack Of Pigmentation?

The State Of Affairs | Africa's Under-performance At World Cups
The State Of Affairs | Africa’s Under-performance At World Cups
The Remnants Of Colonialism | A Product Of Our Past
The Sporting Remnants Of Colonialism | A Product Of Our Past

#TheBootRoom

Dissected with the attention to detail of a legendary Masterchef 2nd season casting outcast , your good mate Uncle Bob serves up his weekly Half-Time Orange For Thought; a mental morsel for the sports fanatic with a healthy appetite for wholesome consumables. We at GSV have reluctantly declared ourselves accountable for any digestion difficulties that may or may not occur. Enjoy!

If one ever wanted tangible evidence of globalisation and its impact on the global community, one would only need to watch an international football tournament at any level and the names or birthplaces of some of the talent on display will leave one baffled and amused more often than not. There is a long standing common held perception in African football that young players with African roots, who leave the Motherland early or are born outside of the continent, do not have the desire to represent their “home” nations and if they are eventually coaxed to play for their African nations, their choices are seen as a fall-back plan for them if they feel they will not make the grade at the senior national team level for the “other” countries they are eligible to represent.

We have reached a pivotal stage in the development of African football where this misguided perception has begun to hamper the growth of our continents’ playing standards and led to there being a talent drain with regards to elite level calibre young players opting to bide their time and rack up youth team appearances in the hope of playing for their “other” nations as they feel no connection to their Motherland. We need to be accountable for our actions in this regard; these talented young players are developed to become elite level performers in foreign countries, they get shunned for call-ups and receive no communication from our African federations until they begin to attract the attention of their “other” nations and become known as promising players across the fraternity. They understandably begin to look at representing their African nations as a fall-back option to representing their “foreign” nations at senior international level as it puts them in better stead at the domestic level; one should understand just how much more valuable a player becomes when they are a fully fledged international footballer, that market value increases even further when that national team is a reputable and successful one.

As a parent, I would love for my South African children to don the Green & Gold, yet if the little snot balls feel more attachment to a nation that has aided in their development as footballers and has shown a considerable interest in making them full internationals, then I would back their decision not to play for Mzansi and support them when they play for their “other” national team. Call it unpatriotic if you will, but we as Africans need to decide just what it is we want for our football; do we want to play national teams packed with locally based and developed footballers that often fail to fulfil their potential due to a lack of furthered development and exposure, or do we want to field competitive national teams that fully represent the diversity and abundance of talent available to us on our blessed continent?

I have chosen not to mention the names of footballers that shunned playing for African nations and went on to become fringe players for their “other” nations, or players that have made the brave decision to play for nations in the Motherland and have had to endure victimisation for various reasons due to a perceived lack of patriotism or a misguided opinion that they are taking opportunities away from locally born and bred lads. Football is a universal language, if a player that was developed at a tiny independent academy in the unknown crevices of Africa is of the same potential level as a player that was nurtured at one of the finest football institutions in the realm, why should we not call them both up for junior national team training camps and official squads when they are still young and learning their trade? This holistic approach to truly developing the best possible national team players regardless of parentage or pigmentation will allow our continent to break through the current threshold and hopefully take another step closer towards that illusive senior men’s World Cup crown.

I would personally like to thank the brave individuals within our national federations that continue to canvass for the inclusion of foreign born or nurtured talent in our junior national team structures from an even younger age, this growing trend will bode well for us in the future as more and more talented young African starlets pop up across the football fraternity due to a myriad of factors that are rooted in globalization; we need to better our scouting networks and ensure that we elevate the standards of our national teams at all levels by always selecting the best available players to represent the nation. We witnessed how a tiny football nation like Equatorial Guinea managed to shock the fraternity with a squad mainly consisting of players that were not born in the country or developed on the continent, the federation did very well to track down players with Equatoguinean connections and their spirited displays will have created a new generation of Equatoguinean footballers dreaming of starring on the World stage while also inspiring countless foreign born and bred Africans to represent their nations from the Motherland,  and Bob’s your Venda speaking Corsica born future French junior international one cap wonder of an uncle.

The Institutions List; ASD Cape Town, Putting Faith Back Into Youth Development

Nurturing Future Stars | ASD Cape Town
Nurturing Future Stars | ASD Cape Town
Frequent Flyers... | ASD Cape Town On Tour
Frequent Flyers… | ASD Cape Town On Tour

Imagine a world where aspiring young footballers could be taken in as pimple faced teens with a tad bit of bum fluff on their chins and nurtured into complete and successful professional footballers with their airbrushed faces on billboards in countries they have never considered frequenting while they sip cocktails in Ibiza with their significant other, who just happens to be an aspiring supermodel… Well dear friend and reader, such a world does exist in the football realm; although many in our fraternity tend to behave as if young stars pop up at random like a cannabis plant and bring euphoria after being allowed the opportunity to light the scene up. We at GSV have roped in your mate Uncle Bob and asked him to dust off his PhD in Development Football and become the Dean of our newly founded School Of Academies, where we enlighten, inform and entertain you with all the insight he has on development sides across the fraternity. In no particular or meticulous order, for that matter, we present to you The GSV Institutions List.

ASD Cape Town

Bio

Full Name: Africa Soccer Developments Cape Town

Country: South Africa

Location: Claremont, Cape Town; Western Cape

Founded: 2009

Nickname: The Wild Dogs

Co-Founder & Director: Mike Steptoe

Notable Graduates: Mpho Makola, Patrick Phungwayo, Lindani Ntamo, Sive Phekezela, Ayanda Patosi, Ebrahim Seedat, Ntsikelelo Nyauza, Ayanda Lubelo, Ethen Sampson, Mabhuti Mayambela. David Gateri, Brandon Fernandes, Myron Mendes, Rushine de Reuck, Andisiwe Mtsila, Devon Saal, Lucky Mshumpela, Thabiso Posholi, Sherwin Bailey

Report Card

Training facilities: B+

Training methodologies:  A-

Coaches: A

Opportunities for growth: A-

Dean’s Comment:  The ASD Cape Town youth academy will already go down in modern football history as a living testament to the abundance of talent Mama Africa has at her disposal and just how successful one can be at developing that talent and changing the lives of talented young footballers by affording them a fair crack at becoming elite level football professionals while elevating the standard of the beautiful game on the continent and aiding in the breaking of the poverty cycle that plagues our beautiful  and potential rich homelands.

ASD CT thrive off developing players between the ages of 15 and 19, the pivotal foundation phase in the development of a football player, while equipping them with the physical, technical and mental tools to play the game at an elite level by the time they are fully developed prodigies who are primed to take their skills onto the next level. Their holistic approach to development leads to them developing men and not just footballers, the academy promotes a culture of prayer in faith in God, who ordains all things and uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things daily; this approach to teaching growth in one’s purpose through a deeper understanding of faith and the promotion of a relationship with God through Bible study and devotions has allowed their protégés to grow immensely while at the academy and this key ingredient of faith and belief in purpose are pivotal to the academies success rate at developing great football professionals and God fearing men of true character.

The holistic approach to development continues off the field as players are taught coaching courses that equip them for a life outside of football while some of their off –field activities include learning to cook and care for oneself when one is abroad and away from home; this extra bit of care and attention is often the differentiator between a player making the grade overseas due to acclimatisation and desire to fulfil ones potential, or returning home prematurely and never truly fulfilling the great potential they were blessed with. The tours abroad and specialised training for European leagues also aid in the development of the players as they get to see what it is they are dreaming about and experience some of the hurdles they will have to overcome in order to get there. ASD Cape Town are surely worthy of a place on our legendary list of great youth developmental institutions, yet we at GSV will continue to pray for more institutions like ASD Cape Town as we know that the future of football can only be as bright as the young players we continue to scout and develop with the right purposes at heart and Bob’s your maternal Grandmothers second born son.

“Our talents are the gift that God gives to us, what we make of our talents is our gift back to God. – Felice Leonardo “Leo” Buscaglia