Young attacker Mohammed Kudus is the most talked about Ghanaian footballer at the moment.
His high-profile transfer to AFC Ajax has been hailed across every platform where football is discussed. The 19 year old has penned a 5 year deal with the Dutch giants after they paid a reported transfer fee of USD $10.2 million for his services from Danish side FC Nordsjaelland.
FC Nordsjaelland in a tributary manner shared this one-time picture (above) of the much talked about Ghanaian footballer Mohammed Kudus (in the middle) – then with feeder club, the Right to Dream Academy- with the caption ‘Everybody Deserves to Dream’.
It’s absolutely on-key to sing along the chorus of everyone deserves to dream. But what’s more necessary for a dreamer is to have a dream helper. A God sent destiny shaper who will help make that dream become a reality.
‘Luckily’ for Kudus, he had his dream ‘helper’ in the R.t.D Academy and the eventual European Launchpad, FC Nordsjaelland to hone and audition his talent gradually.
Within the environment he found himself and the people he worked with, there was this unanimity that there needs to be a plan that will be executed with patience and tolerance for the young boy to develop not just as a professional player but also a ‘proper’ person with values. (You need to watch/listen to him speak and you will agree boy has been polished to become the ultimate professional).
Many young footballers (some even more talented than Kudus) have been less fortunate because lamentably, in a country that is perceived a dominant force in African football, talent development mostly happen by chance than by design. In effect, these talents who fail to be spotted and enrolled into systems like the one Kudus has benefitted from.
The reality is these young boys struggle to stay safe in this ‘deep and dangerous sea’ made up of Ghanaian Football Talents. Most of them get swallowed deep into the whale’s belly and sooner or later they are vomited on shore with faces clearly depicting dashing hopes, frustration and failure.
With academy models like Tom Vernon’s Right To Dream, WAFA et al proving a footballing and commercial success; for not just developing good footballers but adding value to lives of young boys, it has become prudent that this conversation (often had) is reactivated about how necessary it is for major stakeholders in the country to invest into such a venture.
Governments (both past and present) have done very little in setting up a well-functioning system/model for young talented boys and girls to nurture their talents in sports.
Suffice it to say, that various sporting federations have equally not done much in this sense.
Sadly, as a country we’re more fixated on promotional stuff than developmental. The need to travel with a tall list of State functionaries etc. satiates authorities more than investing in a developmental project that will produce not just future stars but also ‘proper’ persons for the country.
It is not surprising that the attention and investment pumped into a single Black Stars tournament far outweighs what has been given to grassroots/juvenile football development in the last 5-10 years.
Ghana is often referred to as the Brazil of Africa. However, this ‘Brazil’ has failed miserably in living up to that tag.
Since the legendary Abedi Pele, Ghana’s football factory has been a letdown somehow; failing to produce a global superstar. Throughout this period, the ‘original’ Brazil has continuously given the footballing world, superstars that have lit the game we all love. Names like Ronaldo Da Lima, Rivaldo, Romario, Kaka, Roberto Carlos and Ronaldinho have all passed through the system throughout this period.
Brazil achieved this not by sheer coincidence. These players are beneficiaries of a concerted action to make available effective football systems that have been adopted by clubs and endorsed by the country’s football governing body.
Brazil has done this and recorded success on almost all fronts. Commercial and Competitive success has come along with this. Without spending much time in elaborating on their on-field success during this period, I choose to switch the focus to the commercial success of the South American country paying serious attention to talent development at the grassroots/juvenile level.
A study of the FIFA’s 2019 Global Transfer Market Report, reveals how much Brazil as a country has prepared itself to strategically benefit from the world football transfer market with a yearly value of over USD $7 billion.
The report based on data analysed for all completed transfers between 1 October 2010 and 31 December 2019 identified Brazil as the association with the most clubs actively involved in international transfers in 2019, with 306. A total of 228 players were transferred from Brazil to Portugal alone.
For the period stated above, Brazil also emerged the first non-UEFA association in the Top 10 of the total receipts from transfer fees, ranking eighth with USD $371.6 million (-2.3%).
In all, Brazil had a net value of transfer fees with a balance of USD $299 million. Only Portugal (with a balance of USD 384 million) fared better.
The South American Country has identified a model that works. The football development system does not just generate massive revenue for them, but also well-resource clubs to do various forms of investments, while continuing to produce standard football players every year.
Ghana cannot just copy wholly the entire Brazilian model. The ‘Brazil of African Football’ needs a unique model that conforms to the modern demands of the game.
Apart from a development plan implemented by the late former football Association Chairman Ben Koufie, there has not been a clear football design from people running football.
There seems to be the adoption of anything at all goes.
Interesting enough, almost the entirety of the current Black Stars setup are players who got no direct help/guidance from the state or the football association to develop into the players they are now. This is worrying and needs to change.
Ghana’s West African neighbors particularly Mali and Senegal have kick started similar projects eventually agreeing partnership arrangements with entities abroad and some through state support.
Ghana’s football factory is very much capable of running such successful models with a primary goal of developing “better people” and providing a platform for both personal and professional development while also exporting most of these talents for very good money.
What’s lacking is the commitment from power holders; the commitment to not just put together a plan, but work towards actualizing it.
So while we celebrate Kudus Mohammed joining Ajax Amsterdam, let this also ignite a conversation within our various circles and trigger the needed action to set the ball rolling for revamping an ailing juvenile sector as regards football.
The ball should roll towards an end that justifies Ghana as truly the ‘Brazil’ of African football.
In conclusion, everyone deserves to dream, but more importantly every dreamer needs a dream helper to help realize their dream(s).
By Michael Asare