School Sport Vs Football Academy – A Whitepaper on Youth Sports Development in Nigeria

Never before have sport in Nigeria faced with such a complex situation as confront us today. While School sport, which was the fulcrum of youth development in the past decades, has declined to almost non-existence, there has been an increasing growth in the number of football academies being established across the country. This ‘double faced whammy’ is placing great pressure on sport administrators in the largest black country in the world.

The Revival of School Sport
Stakeholders are calling back the ‘good old days’ – the revival of School sport! But can it still be attainable or rather, is it the right proposition to pursue in the modern day youth sports development program?

The economic situation in the country isn’t  that buoyant. Perhaps, due to poor funding of public schools, there is little or nothing that can be allocated to sports. School administrators are more concerned as to how to sustain their  major academic curriculum with the very scarce resources available to them. As you well know, sport is regarded as extra-curriculum activity.

Private school on the other hand gain better reputation by pursuing academic distinction in modern science and technology. Gone are days when schools are rated high because of their sport accomplishments.

The truth is, School focus more on academies and minor on sport.  In Schools, sport is only aimed at keeping the student active and healthy while they engage in other academic pursuit – to become Doctors, Lawyers, Computer engineers… But football academies focus more on football training and minor on academies. Football academies aim at producing professional football players.

The trend now-a-days is more and more specialized football academies are springing up by the day. The growing interest in football academies maybe attributed to the continuous liberalization of the global football transfer market  and we have seen some Nigerian footballers like Nwankwo Kanu, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, John Mikel Obi enjoyed such global fame and unimaginable financial fortune.

Football academies are organized as private business. So parents pay to send their talented kids into the academy to develop their football skills. Football academies are better equipped with qualified instructors to train the youth in advance football techniques. Therefore, football academies are likely to turn out better trained footballers than school sport.

Perhaps, the only floor is talented kids from extremely poor background may not have the means to attend quality football academies and may depend on school sport to bring their talents to therefore. And where school sport is non-existent, then this class of youths may be greatly short changed.

School Sport and Football academy should compliment each other, but more emphasis should be placed  on development of football academies – that’s the new reality.

We are already reaping the result as Nigeria has recently won FIFA U17 World Cup back-to-back, making it the fifth trophy in this level of competition. More of the youth are being export to Europe and Asia to start are more illustrious professional football career. Family are set free from poverty and Nigeria is earning  higher foreign exchange. It shows that our Youth Football is improving with the establishment of football academies in the country.

The lesson for other sports is to follow the example of the football industry. We should stop waiting for government nor school to help  us discover and develop talents. Nigeria will do better if we have :Boxing Academies, Track and Field Academies, Weightlifting Academies… Government can no longer fund sports like in the past. It is now in the hands of private entrepreneurs or at best public – private partnership – that’s the way forward!

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