Asound understanding of the intricacy of the procedure of running football academies will unlock the bags of untapped football talent dotting Uganda, Johnathan McKinstry has said.
The Cranes head coach was speaking to Kawowo Sports Media in a wide-ranging interview. The 34-year-old believes efforts of adhering to best practices will not go in vain.
“Here in Uganda there are lots of organisations that are termed academies, but [they are not] in the true sense of the world,” the Northern Irishman said in a comment that will, for some, feel like an assault.
While the financial impact of Covid-19 threatens to make football academies in Uganda even less great than usual, piling new strains on already fraying budgets, McKinstry says the basics have to be gotten right regardless.
The 34-year-old has extensive experience in age grade football, following spells at Newcastle United, New York Red Bulls, Right to Dream Academy and the Craig Bellamy Foundation.
The Cranes coach says a delicate balance has to be struck between football and academics to ensure that academies imbibe a holistic experience along with its discipline.
Drawing on his time at the Craig Bellamy academy in a fishing village in Sierra Leone, McKinstry recalls: “The boys came into a full residential environment at 11 years of age. Everyday they were getting three hours of football training, and five hours of school, on-site.”
He adds: “The majority of Ugandan young footballers, the first time they get into an organised football structure,
He adds: “The majority of Ugandan young footballers, the first time they get into an organised football structure, they are 16, 17, 18 years of age, which is really too late. You need to get into that structure at the age of 11 or 12.”
The Northern Irishman also noted that, while exposure is how you take a modern-day player’s measure, there is an absurdity about the limit to the actions Ugandan players take to publicise themselves.
An unnamed player, who went unused during the 2019 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup tournament, for instance missed out on getting a chance to impress one of McKinstry’s footballing associates. Reason? Because there were no video clips of the said player in action upon which an evaluation could be conducted. “I have put a proposal on the president’s (Moses Magogo) desk [about] how we can get our players more exposure around the world on scouting platforms and the like.”
McKinstry, who has taken a liking to eating “grilled grasshoppers” during his time in Uganda having not thought them edible before, also wants to introduce Ugandans to something novel - watching the Cranes play at the World Cup. He insists that playing at Qatar 2022 can be actualised. “For me personally, I would like to climb the biggest mountains. Managing exceptions [is] not the way I do things.”
CRANES UNDER MCKINSTRY
Goals scored: 20
Goals conceded: 2
Winning percentage: 90