Magazine article New African

Creating Tomorrow's Footballer Today: The Katumbi Football Academy Is Central to Long-Term Plans of TP Mazembe to Control Their Own Destiny

Magazine article New African

Creating Tomorrow's Footballer Today: The Katumbi Football Academy Is Central to Long-Term Plans of TP Mazembe to Control Their Own Destiny

Article excerpt

FEW CLUBS IN AFRICAN FOOTBALL RELY ON developing their own talent, preferring to rely on poaching 'finished products' from others, for their title and other short-term ambitions.

The prohibitive cost of discovering and nurturing young, budding talent, which adds up over several years, has been a major disincentive for the continent's clubs, for whom just meeting daily needs can be extremely challenging. Poaching was a script Mazembe also followed, until its president realised they had to lay a much stronger, dependable foundation for the development of players, who would be painstakingly instilled with the football culture and personal ethos Mazembe's keen to promote.

"Congo has been producing good talent for a long time but there has been no sustainable investment in them," Katumbi observes.

"Before the political troubles in Congo, the school system did a lot to discover and nurture talent. But our problems ensured that this system was completely destroyed, until recently."

"For Mazembe, we know that if we are to remain a strong team, we must build our future with the youth. That is why we are making a significant investment into the academy."

"We have acquired 500 hectares for the construction of the academy's physical infrastructure, which when completed, would be on the same level with any top academy in Europe," Katumbi insists.

Frenchman Regis Laguesse is the man that has been entrusted with enforcing the vision for the academy.

Laguesse worked with Jean-Marc Guillou at the very successful ASEC Mimosas academy in Cote D'Ivoire, which produced the Toure brothers, Kolo and Yaya, Emmanuel Eboue and other well-nurtured products that went on to successful careers in European club football.

This Academy, set up in 1994, has reportedly produced 48 professional players so far. Laguesse is keen to transfer the success in Abidjan to Lubumbashi.

"I met with Moise [Katumbi] for the first time in November last year. This meeting was organised by Roland Scheubel, a very senior adviser to the president," Laguesse tells African Football. Scheubel, who designed the grand vision for the academy, handpicked Laguesse for the project. "Before coming here, I was running my own academy in Kinshasa," Laguesse said.

"After talking with Katumbi, and seeing that he had a very serious vision for Mazembe, I decided that I wanted to be a part of this plan and we started on the 16th of January, this year."

"I arrived from Kinshasa with 16 boys, who were between 12-14 years old. Most are between 13 and 15 now."

"Just last September, we added four players from Lubumbashi, selected from the scouting missions that we did during the past months."

"So, we have a total of 20 players in the very first intake that we have at the academy."

"Since September this year, we admitted our second generation of players in the academy, picking 12 players from the 5,572 children that we scouted throughout Lubumbashi and its environs."

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One of the unique training methods for players at the academy is that they must play barefoot until they have passed the academy's stringent technical tests. In addition to playing without shoes, 18 players--divided into nine-a-side teams-play daily matches on only half a pitch, without goalkeepers. …

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