NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 9- Bigger emphasis on talent development in the grassroot will unearth more football talent like Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama in Kenya and the East African region, former Arsenal right back Lauren Bisan Etamé-Mayer has said.
Speaking to Capital Sport on the sidelines of his visit to Kenya, the 1996 Olympic Gold medalist says the reason European leagues are not littered with players from the East Africa region is because of lack of emphasis on talent development.
“A few years back I was in Rwanda and Uganda with Arsenal and this was a big issue discussed. I think this is because in this part of Africa there is not so much focus on football but athletics because they are the best in the world,” the 39-year old said.
“We have to go to early basis. Getting down to the grassroot and picking the players at an early age is the secret because it is when they get everything. If this happens in future we will see more players from this side of Africa playing in the English Premier League and not only Wanyama.”
Lauren has heaped praise on The Kenyan midfielder whom he says has progressed hugely over the years since he first saw him playing for Celtic.
“I watched him from way back when he was in Celtic, then Southampton and now Tottenham. He has grown and has been doing a fantastic job. He is outstanding in Tottenham since he joined them and he keeps progressing. He’s going to be one of the best examples to young players in Kenya,” the Cameroonian said of the 25-year old midfielder.
At the same time, Lauren has challenged African coaches to explore opportunities of coaching abroad especially now that the continent is also full of European coaches.
Though he feels disappointed none of the tacticians at the moment has taken up the challenge, Lauren believes that it is just a matter of time before an African coach handles one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“We won the gold medal at the Olympics with a Cameroonian coach. So it shows that they also have the ability their European counterparts have. The Europeans have to accept as well that African coaches can manage European teams because we are living in a world of globalization. In future things will be that way. We will see more coaches and African players in Europe,” he added.
Lauren is in Kenya to officially close a week-long coaching course in Nairobi, organized by Kenyan Premier league sponsors SportPesa and Arsenal academy trainers to train KPL and National Super League coaches on ‘playing the Arsenal way’.
“This is an amazing project bringing coaches to teach locals the Arsenal way which is fantastic. Kids will have opportunity to learn about the Arsenal way through these coaches and we see how that can translate to get the kids getting to the highest level,” the Spanish based Business Administration student opined.
Having joined Arsenal from Mallorca in 2000, Lauren was part of Arsenal’s ‘invincilbles’ squad that won the EPL on a 49-match unbeaten run in 2003/2004.
He looks back with Nostalgia and terms the moment ‘magic’.
“It was unbelievable! What we did is gonna stay there for ages. What happened is we improved the defensive play we were used to; 1-0 2-0 results. We maintained the solid shape at the back but we played much better football and started scoring more goals,” he said.
Being part of a gem brought into the limelight by the Gunners coach Arsene Wenger, Lauren has urged patience with the Frenchman while tipping him to win the Premier League for the first time since 2005.
“We all understand there is a lot of demand. People want Arsenal to win the league but we have to be positive. Arsene has contributed a lot. He took players from nothing; Fabregas, Anelka, Nasri Clichy…. we have to keep him; he is the strongest man and can still lead that boat. At the end of the season, we’ve got to be happy Arsenal will lift the title,” Lauren offered.
He adds; “We have to be positive because the team has been improving every single year. The gaps have been filled up. Arsenal are much better at the back, stronger in the middle. This generation has played three or four years together. This season the team will be up there.”
He has also urged the Arsenal board to do everything in their power to keep Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, his favorite player at the club. There has been much debate in the recent weeks over the contract situations of the two who have anchored Arsenal’s brilliant run this season.
“Alexis (Sanchez) without a doubt stands out. South American players give extra. Since the first day he signed, I said that he is a top player. He is always out there pressing the defenders, asking for the ball, looking for spaces to score. He assumes his big player role and plays like it is the last game of his career,”
“Of course the club cannot go bankrupt for the two. There has to be a balance but those two players have to be at the club, the club has to do an effort to keep them,” he added.