Awhile back I posted an article, here, on the pressures put on young players at professional club academies. The setup at Ajax was examined in detail in a New York Times article and the author pointed out the stress it created for kids as young as seven in the program.
About the same time, a documentary came out pointing out the numerous sham ‘academies’ in Africa that are very high on promises and very low on returns for young African players. While both the Ajax and African scenarios put incredible strain on players and families, the documentary on the African set up pointed out that many kids were pulled from their homes and moved around so various clubs and agents could have a look at them. Most ended up being dumped unceremoniously when it became apparent there wasn’t going to be a big money transfer to a European club. The Guardian/Observer also had a good article on the problem (read here).
But it’s not all grim exploitation. Now there’s some different approaches coming to light. Leading the way is the new Steve Nash run ‘Football for Good’ that looks to take a far more ethical and sustainable approach to player development in Africa. It’s just getting off the ground but with some luck it will emulate the Right to Dream academy in Ghana that has been around for awhile and combines football training with education and provides long term (five year) full scholarship commitments to players selected.