NAIROBI, Kenya, June 16 – None of the 19 Kenyan under-13 boys who made it to the Aspire Football Dream (AFD) Trials in Nairobi was picked as the selectors from the famed Aspire Academy settled for six boys from the East African region.
Three Ugandans and three Tanzanians were selected by the AFD scouts, the highest number of players considered from the region to join other selected finalists from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mali, Thailand, Paraguay and Vietnam.
The players will head to the Aspire Academy headquarters in Doha for a three-week final testing phase where 20 best players will be put on full scholarships to pursue the opportunity of becoming a “Champion in Sport” as well as a “Champion in Life”.
Kakamega High School midfielder Ronald Sichenje is set to join the Academy in September after being picked last year.
Other Kenyans who have previously made it to the Academy include Timonah Wanyonyi and Khaleed Jumaan who have been dropped by Tusker and AFC Leopards respectively in the recently opened transfer window.
Ramadhan Katana is currently at the Academy in Senegal and was named best player during a tournament held in Doha early this year.
“In the past we have selected three from this region but this time the level of play was very high. We do not reveal the identities of the boys for now until after the last round of selection in Qatar to keep off coaches and agents who target them and lure them from the academy,” Aspire Football Dreams Director in Kenya, Steve Othoro said.
The final round of demonstrations began on Monday at the Kasarani Stadium and drew 13-year old boys from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda and closed on Thursday.
AFD-scouts and Aspire Academy experts assessed the 50 talented teenagers from the region to determine the most talented.
Josep Colomer, Director of recruiting and scouting at Aspire Academy was impressed with the depth of talent displayed by the boys that impelled the selectors to pick a slightly higher number than usual.
“We have witnessed excellent talent. For me East Africa is one of the biggest football regions. When we started 10 years ago people said why Kenya, Kenya is only known for running. But now they have proved that they have talent in football. Local people need to believe and support that,” Colomer, who is Barcelona’s former youth director, stated.
The Trials were a three-stage selection process where in the first two stages, the registered boys participated in 25-minute long 11-aside games.
The best players went on to the second phase, where they took part in another round of 11-aside games under the watch of the international scouts to determine the top players in respective countries.
The program kicked off in 2007 in Africa, and attracted seven countries and about 430,000 young football players were screened.
So far, more than 40 scholarship recipients have represented their national football associations at various levels of national football ranging from the U17 to A-national teams.