By Sedara Philip
The Kebbi State-owned football club, Kebbi Utd, has seen off the successful transfer of three of its players to Egyptian club and two other young players to Sporting Lisbon Academy .
Mr. Pedro Batista, a former Sporting Lisbon Director stated this in a statement made available to newsmen in Birnin Kebbi.
Batista explained that there have been a lot of progress made in the area of football sector in Kebbi state in the past few years.
He said: “Some years ago when I meet Mr. Emmanuel Amunike, former Nigerian Player and now respected Coach and business man based in Sweden, we started talking about the tremendous potential of Nigeria regarding football.
We realized that Nigerian players are behind no one on technical and physical aspects, and the major obstacles for them to make the transition to football outside Nigeria was proper understanding of the game.
Nigeria has great potential but lacks proper youth football programmes.
“So we put together a team to tackle this, and we went after the best that are in the market: Coach Telmo Costa that coached for more than 10 years in Sporting Lisbon Academy and Coach Jose Alexandre that coached many years in SL Benfica academy, two of the best youth football academies in the World.
Together these coaches coached players like Eric Dier (Tottenham), Rui Patricio (Roma), Bernardo Silva (Man City) João Cancelo (Bayern Munich), Ederson (Man City) and many others playing at top level in Europe”.
Batista also said that they collaborated with Mr Luis Dias, former Technical Director of Sporting Youth Academy, who had coached no less than Cristiano Ronaldo when Ronaldo started his journey at Sporting Lisbon.
He said: ” We put together a project that convinced Kebbi State Government to make things happen! Having these coaches full time in Kebbi State, coaching and overseeing a State Academy that includes two teams of U12, two teams of U15, one team of U17 and two teams of U20. No other project in Nigeria has coaches of these calibre and experience full time with our Nigerian kids, adapting the methodology of the two best academies in the World to the Nigerian reality.
“The final goal was a long term one: to polish from a very young age starting by U12 until U17/U20 when the players would be prepared to face the world of football! But the talent is so abundant that much sooner than we started, we get players ready for the market.”
He said that in the last Summer, Kebbi State Academy sent two players to Sporting Lisbon Academy where, for two months, they practiced with the U19 team of Sporting Lisbon.
“The two kids left such a good impression that once they reach 18 years old, in December, they will be back in Portugal again!””And finally in the this last January international market, Kebbi State Government saw, for the first time in the state’s history, three players from the Government-owned club, Kebbi United, being transferred to Egypt where Kebbi State formed a very promising partnership with Enppi Club, a traditional Club playing in the Egyptian Premier League, that just this weekend beat the African super power Zamalek by 2-0!”
“But it doesn’t stop here; in this next summer market they have already highlighted five players in Kebbi to sign for European Clubs once the market opens again”, he added.