African football is lowly rated in the world because of a number of issues but this article looks at the development structures in Africa compared to what is being done in Europe and America.


In Africa children are seriously introduced to the sport in most countries at the age of about 10/11 or 12. At this age that’s when children first get a glimpse of structured and organised football and in some countries this only happens when they are fifteen (15) years of age. European countries are introducing young players to football at a tender age of three (3) so that by the time they are 15 they are able to compete at a very high standard which is why we always hear of a young 18/19 year old playing for a big team in Europe’s top 5 leagues. In Africa by the time a child reaches 17/18 thats when he is starting to show signs of potential, then when he only gets to 23 can he start competing at a high level. This is a big flaw in African football because this is then followed by a series of terrible cases of age cheating that a lot of our players are seriously considering so as to be able to meet the standard and get a chance to play in the world’s top leagues which is wrong.

European youth football – These kids at this young age are already used to the ball. by the time they are 15 they already have 10 years experience in the sport.









In Africa at the age of five you play a lot of street football bare foot where you develop a lot of bad habits as a player and are at risk of getting lifetime injuries that haunt players years into their playing career.

African youth football

in Africa only at the age of 12 maybe that’s when we get introduced to organised academy football. 

by the time they get to fifteen they are still struggling with basic techniques like passing the ball and receiving.




This is the most saddening of them all because this is the main/ major culprit in stifling young player development in Africa. In Europe it is very important for one to attain coaching badges and other courses to be able to coach children in an academy yet in Africa any Tom, Nick and Harry from wherever is entrusted with the development of young players. African academies are not hiring qualified personnel because they are running away from paying coaches so they get an easy fix which is destroying not just the face but the whole body of football in the continent. Coaches in academies are unaware of how to develop young footballers into world class players that can actually compete for big prices like the world player of the year award.


There is no standing football philosophies in African academies the focus is wrong from their structure to the way the players are supposed to be trained and developed. At 11 years of age players go through a tense physical training program and technical training is totally neglected. Coaches train players to be physically fit and spend less time on developing their mental capacity and technical ability, which is killing the whole structure because the foundation is not strong at all. In Africa at 6 years of age (for the few academies that have a structure) the emphasis is being put on winning causing a lot of children to drop out because they’re scared to disappoint the coach and be punished, yet the focus should be to make the children play as much as they can and let them enjoy without emphasising on winning or losing.


Very few companies are willing to donate and invest in academy football, all they focus on is senior football. little attention is given to development therefore very few players are developed because the resources are limited to allow for mass development. in Europe millions are being pumped into player development programs whilst in Africa there are no programs to start with.


Some big clubs in a number of African countries do not care about their academies and some do not even have academy structures. If the big clubs are not emphasising on the importance of development then the war is already lost because there is no ammunition at all.


African Football boards/associations need to make it compulsory that all clubs playing in the top division and the division below should have teams all the way to under 6 atleast as a start. by doing this junior leagues are easily developed which will ensure that players are developed in the long term other than having a crush course at 15 years trying to teach a player all the principles at once. Companies should become more involved in funding sport initiatives with proper structures and ensure that there is continuity and progression in football. the local football boards should have incentives put in place for academies so that excellence is achieved by the academies. Academy coaches should be registered by local football associations and anyone without a certain level of qualification and a clearance from the association should not be allowed to coach at all. This will ensure that players are taught well by qualified people who know what they are doing. Every academy should have a structure that looks at player development in its entirely and not just partly. Academies should not look to brag on social media about winning games but instead show the world the quality they’re producing. A lot still needs to be done in Africa for player development to improve and build towards an African country winning the world cup some day or an African club winning the Club world cup someday. I didn’t  mention anything about resources in this article because we do not have perfect fields like Europeans but it has nothing to do with how we teach our young players football. Innovative ways can be used to allow for development to take place like making cones/markers from waste material like 2L coke bottles as an example. A lot needs to be done but every one in Africa is responsible because by doing the right thing you encourage more to follow through. We need to have more world class players produced in Africa like George Wear, Samuel Eto, Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Rigobert Song, Kolo Toure, Bruce Grobelar, Michael Essien and Emmanuel Adebayor amongst others. If Africa could produce these players what prevents each and every country in Africa managing to develop at least 2 or 3 players of the quality of Samuel Eto as a striker or Yaya Toure as a Midfielder every year.

LEFT TO RIGHT – Samuel Eto’|Didier Drogba|Yaya Toure|Michael Essien| Emmanuel Adebayor|

If Europe can do it every year why cant Africa do it every year.


Tinashe-Shingai Mukandatsama (tinashe.shingai@gmail.com)



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