The establishment of sport academies especially football has seen different clubs across the world grooming and nurturing talent from young stars who later feed into the senior team.
The development of these young players plays a pivotal role in securing the future needs of these clubs and making sure that they stay on top when the senior players’ performance and play begin to dwindle.
Botswana likewise has not been left behind as the Botswana Football Association continues to develop and support grassroots structures so that talent is identified at a young age.
Besides local clubs having their own development structures, there are individuals who have taken it upon themselves to help nature talent by registering their own academies as a way of identifying talent from the future stars of tomorrow.
Rakitla Bogatsu started Umlilo Academy of Soccer in 2011 in Mochudi which trains and gives youngsters the necessary skills to be better players.
In an interview with BOPA, Bogatsu said the academy is a youth football school for boys and girls aged between six and 20 years to provide soccer training and education. He said the main objective of the academy is to gather these young children from the streets and bring them together in a place where they can shape their future. Bogatsu further said the school helps these children to realise their potential in sports while at the same time they learn football skills, friendship and spirit of togetherness.
He said so far he has registered 300 children with the academy even though some of them do not attend practice sessions.
“I am happy to be working with these kids because I know that they will not be engaged in bad activities like street fights, drugs and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy and theft.
Here they also learn life and survival skills including leadership training,” said Bogatsu.
He said sport is among the highest paying talent in the world hence some of these children will make a living out of it and help their families.
Since its inception, Umlilo academy has achieved many things among them the champions of the Builders World Kgatleng Youth Tournament in 2013, 2014 and 2015 consecutively.
Bogatsu said the academy has seven categories so far which are under 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, and 19 for boys and under 15 for girl’s football team.
He further said two Umlilo young players were selected for the Junior National Team in 2014 while other five young players are silver medalists at the 2015 BOPSSA Nationals which were held at Serowe.
“One Umlilo young girl is a gold medalist at 2015 COSSASA Games held in Zimbabwe. The Under 15 girls’ team is the bronze medalists in the Kgatleng Youth Independence Cup 2015.”
Bogatsu said the academy management does not only help the children with football skills but also assists those who come from disadvantaged families with school trip allowances and school uniform.
He said he has already loaned 10 players to division one teams in Mochudi and they have been performing very well. Like any other academy, Umlilo is heralded with challenges that hinder its prospects especially when they have to play away games. Bogatsu said transport remains the major problem they are facing now adding that they have to carry training equipment and undertake other administrative duties.
He said they also need funds for feeding the children during camping and games.