By Gauhar Mahmood Azeem,
This article was written after a young talented boy of 14 from Karachi called me to ask me to help him further his progress in football. He said he couldn’t ‘’afford’’ to learn football from the setups near his area.
The performances of a nation in football always reflect the state of the youth development setups in those nations. World Champions Spain has the world’s best academies providing the national team setup with an un-ending stream of great educated young footballers for years to come. Those academies also provide youngsters with an opportunity to simply PLAY.
Over the last few years Pakistan has seen growth of football academies in its major cities including Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. They should give the young kid of Pakistan an opportunity to reach the top of world football shouldn’t they? In theory they should!
The academies here in Pakistan though are finely tuned money-making machines. Some in Karachi are even charging outrageous sums of Rs. 3000/- monthly as membership fees. The cost in Lahore is a lot less though. One immediately thinks if it shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the players earn a stipend for playing? They should!
Further more the club level performance of these Academies is below par, nothing worth a headline. They are reluctant to put an extra effort to promote themselves in that regard and are focusing on the bird/business in hand.
Now I seriously believe that academies are the way forward. But NOT like how they are working at the moment. They should genuinely care for the footballer, who at their level is a kid.
Can anyone explain how the loss of a great budding footballer is justified when all the crime he ever did was being born in a poor family. When he’ll start to earn, he’ll be too old.
The academies should look to sponsors. It isn’t too difficult by the way. Arsenal recently needed to sell naming rights to their stadium to earn money to build it, thus Emirates Stadium. Commercialism and good marketing is football now. These academies need to realize this now. I would rather see an academy giving naming rights, every board of its stadium/ground, and shirt space to a sponsor than listening to kids telling FootballPakistan.com that we can’t afford to join a proper football academy.
The PFF should maybe make legislation in this regard; it should explore some avenues in this regard. A lot of things come to my mind, A LOT, I don’t need to teach anyone sharpness and problem solving here.
It is my humble request to these academies and their owners. Hire a marketing manager, even someone part time. Wouldn’t cost you a lot, I guarantee. Ask him to explore the commercial aspects of a company where a 1000 plus kids come to play football weekly, a company which has a ground/stadium in a good commercial area, one whose name is famous and one which has a potential to play 100’s of football games an year(imagine the benefit this gives to a shirt sponsor).
Let’s give the kids a right to play and help them genuinely. Let’s stop charging our players. Money is important, making money is ones right, but there are other better ways to make money in the same scenario which are potentially more rewarding than what is now.