- Title: NIGERIA: FOOTBALL/SOCCER - Nigerian academy trains future footballers
- Date: 7th November 2009
- Summary: ILORIN, NIGERIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) BUSY STREETS OF ILORIN VARIOUS OF PEOPLE ON THE STREETS (2 SHOTS) BOARD READING: "KWARA FOOTBALL ACADEMY - MOTTO: SKILL AND INTELLECT"
- Embargoed: 22nd November 2009 12:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA88LOSSR6CKXE3IJ04PYUTZ6VT
- Story Text: A Nigerian soccer academy hosts more than 200 boys from disadvantaged families across the nation, hoping to provide the country with future generations of players.
Located in the agricultural rich central town of Ilorin, Kwara state, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) northeast of Lagos, Kwara Football Academy is home to some 200 teenagers who hope to represent the nation's best footballers in the future.
Many of them, aged between 13 and 19 years old, were plucked from otherwise poverty stricken neighbourhoods across the country.
The entry requirement into the academy is talent for soccer and a readiness to continue with normal education.
Ibrahim Mamman, 15, is a striker and top goal scorer for his age category. He said his dreams have grown since joining the academy.
"I intend to be a star, just like Ronaldino, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka - players that have made it in football, the fame around many things, the respect," Mamman said, during a break in morning training.
Chisom Ugbaja, also 15, is also one of the academy's promising young talents. Hailing from the formerly turbulent oil rich Niger Delta, he described the opportunity at the academy as the only hope for him.
"I see myself playing above (better than) Fabregas," he said.
The efforts and success of Kwara Football Academy have not gone unnoticed as some of its players are now on trial in Europe and South Africa.
It has also received recognition from world ranking football administrators such as the C.F.A. president Issa Hayatou and more recently legendary coach and manager Jose Mourinho.
Head coach, Paul Odye, has decades of experience training football and said he hoped to deliver faultless players from Nigeria.
"It is good progress and it been going on and on and on, like that," Odey said.
Some players are already considering their options, in case a career in soccer doesn't work out, while others remain optimistic.
"Football is what I am looking forward to but, if it doesn't work out, I can still go back to school," Mamman said.
"I finished my secondary school too. I heard of this school and I applied for it because of the love I have for football," said Chisom Ugbaja.
Zakari Mohammed, commissioner for sports in Kwara state, oversees the academy's smooth running and says it offers alternatives to those who are not selected by international teams.
"We are conscious that not all of them will end up as footballers but that is why they offer, especially for the older boys sports management. So they can be good football managers or coaches," said Mohammed.
But it's not just the performance on the pitch that the guarantees success.
"Our challenges have been the finances and we are using the opportunity to call upon the private sector to come in and invest here because it is not government business, it is private business and will be run as such," Mohammed said.
Kwara Football Academy was launched in 2005 and is privately funded by a group of Nigerian businessmen and Kwara state.
But expansion has become a challenge with less money being invested in Nigeria's number one sport.
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