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Securing the future through revival of colts football

In a monumental move that promises to reshape the landscape of football, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) has announced the eagerly awaited return of colts (juvenile) football nationwide, a resurgence that comes alongside a comprehensive strategy aimed at revitalising grassroots football, which stands as the bedrock of sport’s development.

The news elicited widespread excitement, resonating deeply with Ghanaian football enthusiasts, including revered icon Michael Essien, whose ascent to global acclaim traces back to his formative years in colts and inter-school football, who lauded the decision as a monumental stride towards reinvigorating the grassroots football ecosystem.

The former Black Stars and Chelsea star, echoing the sentiments of many, hailed the FA’s move, recognising the pivotal role colts football plays in nurturing young talents and fostering a culture of competitive excellence.

“Great news, finally we have our Colts youth football league back. Well done, @ghanafaofficial for bringing back Colts football,” Essien tweeted, in response to the FA’s announcement on its social media page, X (formerly Twitter).

Vibrant colts system

Decades ago, Ghanaian football pulsated with the vibrancy of community colts teams, where future football stars were unearthed and nurtured at community parks and playgrounds and exposed to regular competitions early in their promising careers. These teams were not sophisticated and run often by passionate philanthropists with meagre resources who provided a platform for budding talents to flourish.

However, development challenges in later years, which saw many of these community parks taken over by churches and other commercial interests, and the demise of some of the early founders of notable Colts teams without succession plans, resulted in the slow death of Colts or grassroots football.

However, over time, the landscape of grassroots football underwent a gradual transformation, grappling with an array of developmental challenges. Many of these community parks that once served as hallowed grounds for colts football gave way to churches and other commercial interests. And the demise of pioneering founders of colts teams without succession plans dealt a blow to grassroots football. This transition was further compounded by the emergence of European-style football academies, which offered a more structured approach to talent development but often catered to the exceptional and privileged few.

Notable institutions were the Gomoa Fetteh Feyenoord Academy, financed by Rotterdam-based Dutch topflight side Feyenoord. Officially opened in 1999, Fetteh Feyenoord was the model academy in Ghana and produced many great talents who transitioned to play elite-level football in Ghana and the Netherlands. 

European-style academies

Today, Right to Dream Academy, based at Akradie near Akosombo, represents the ideal environment for talent development as it is integrated with a school running GES curriculum to ensure total development of the youngsters.

While academies like the Gomoa Fetteh Feyenoord Academy and the Right to Dream Academy have produced remarkable talents, they represent only a fraction of the grassroots football landscape in Ghana. The traditional Colts system, with its emphasis on widespread participation and regular competition, remains unparalleled in its ability to identify and nurture talent at the grassroots level. The system produced generations of exceptional players such as Mohammed Polo, Abedi Pele, Nii Odartey Lamptey, Charles Akonnor, Essien, and Asamoah Gyan, among others, during a period Ghana dominated international football from age-group competitions to the senior level.

The decline of colts football has been closely linked to Ghana’s waning fortunes in international competitions, highlighting the urgent need for its revival. Recognising this imperative, GFA President, Kurt Simeon-Okraku is leading the crusade as chairman of the National Juvenile Committee of the FA, to ensure that grassroots football has the highest attention possible and support.

Despite different interventions in the past, the FA believes its roadmap and interventions would provide the springboard for revival of grassroots football, countrywide talent identification and development and a return to a tried-and-tested path to football glory once again. Central to the its revitalisation plan is a series of strategic interventions aimed at empowering coaches and supporting colts clubs across the country.

At the core of the FA’s revitalisation plan lies a series of strategic interventions such as the provision of free License D Coaching Courses to 900 coaches of Colts clubs over a three-year period. By equipping coaches with professional certification, the GFA aims to raise the standard of coaching at the grassroots level to ensure that these clubs become breeding grounds where young players receive quality guidance and mentorship from qualified professionals.

GFA’s blueprint

However, the GFA’s vision extends far beyond coaching alone. The comprehensive support package includes critical resources and incentives for colts clubs, including the provision of footballs, trophies, medals and administrative assistance aimed at alleviating the teams’ financial burdens.

In a bold display of commitment, the GFA has announced the hosting of the 4th KGL Foundation Under-17 Inter-regional championships at the Ghanaman Soccer Centre of Excellence in Prampram, a competition supported by KGL Foundation and serves as a platform for unearthing and nurturing the next generation of football prodigies. Additionally, the football governing body is set to inaugurate the Under-15 Girls Inter-Regional Challenge Cup, marking a historic milestone in women’s football development, fostering inclusivity and excellence across all facets of the sport and paving the way for their progression into elite levels of competition.

Through targeted interventions, strategic partnerships, and unwavering dedication, the GFA has taken pivotal steps to lay the foundation for a vibrant and sustainable football ecosystem that will propel Ghanaian football to new heights of success.

Source: Graphic Sports



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