European Football Academies and Indigenous Initiatives in Africa – Report about a debate in Vienna, Austria

On December 13th 2012, FairPlay-VIDC organized a public debate on “Global Players - Transformations in Global Football” as a part of the football discussion series Club 2x11. The debate was organized in cooperation with the Main Library Vienna, ballesterer football magazine and tipp3.

The debate’s focus was based upon the usage of different strategies applied by European and indigenous football academies. It highlighted the importance of a comprehensive education and its developmental influence on a player’s career, as well as its affect on global football business. It also tried to explore latest changes through new movements and alternative strategies that are currently emerging within the African and global football.

Panel Guests: Oscar Mwaanga, founder of EduSport Academy FC in Zambia & sport sociologist at Southampton Solent University, Eric Akoto, player of SC Austria Klagenfurt, 56 caps for Togo, Nick Neururer, FIFA players’ agent and scout, Gerald Hoedl, historian and development researcher,  and Martin Kainz, FairPlay-VIDC, thesis about the Red Bull Soccer Academy in Ghana. Chair: Klaus Federmair, ballesterer football magazine.

Within the discussion, all parties agreed that within the global world of football, “player development” should not be limited to ball training and drills but requires a comprehensive education. While Eric Akoto in his youth had to choose between either school or football, nowadays football academies try to incorporate a broader education of their players.

Football and comprehensive education: the key to success in a global (football-) world

However, different institutions differ in their interests and applied strategies:  the mainly known academies so far have been European owned, business oriented football academies, such as the Austrian External link in new windowRed Bull Soccer Academy in Ghana, who aims to prepare young players as soon as possible as products for the international football market, centred on Europe.

Martin Kainz: „This is connected to the fact that – in the beginning – it is quite hard for African players in Europe to adapt. They have to deal with a completely new social environment in a new country. As a matter of fact, Red Bull tries to educate the players as soon as possible according to the own philosophy.”

A side effect of this approach is a relatively high failure rate and fluctuation among the players. In addition, there is a lack of possibilities for local, African actors to participate in the flow of resources, capital and expertise. Simultaneously more and more alternative models run by indigenous actors emerge within African football. For example the External link in new windowEduSport Academy: a community based organisation in Zambia, which focuses on human development and sports. In this model, football serves as a magnet to create a platform, where different talents can emerge.

New self-conception of Africa’s new way of thinking 

Although Europe and its international clubs are still considered to be the centre of the global football world, these new movements reflect latest shifts in perspective and power. As a result of a comprehensive education more and more Africans develop a new way of thinking: instead of being dependent on Europe and its influence, they try to refine themselves, to shift the focus on their own region and their own development. 

Oscar Mwaanga: „Africans need to be able to get to a place, where we are not asking for somebody who is very kind to the Africans, but we are able to be in a position to bargain. We have a good product, that we have refined ourselves.

External link in new window
Listen the podcast of the discussion
, with the statements of Oscar Mwaanga held in English. 

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