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Supporting Elite African Academies: Tournoi des Lagunes Review

For well over a decade, Scout7 has been a proud supporter of initiatives involving elite football development in Africa, which culminated last year in the staging of our very own Challenge Afrique tournament in Senegal.

Following on from the resounding success of that event, this year we were delighted to partner with another project, organised by Ivoire Academie, which brought together eight of the best youth clubs and academies in West Africa for an U17 tournament based at their development centre in the Ivory Coast: Tournoi des Talents des Lagunes.

The tournament ran for a week at the start of November and alongside the hosts featured five teams from the Ivory Coast: ASEC Mimosas, Willamsville Athletic Club (WAC), Academie Fola, Leader Foot and Junior Volcans, alongside two invited academies from neighbouring Ghana: Right to Dream and the West African Football Academy (WAF).

Alongside the invited teams, several European clubs sent scouts to cover the competition, with representatives from England and France making the trip to Abidjan.

To give you an idea of the pedigree of the players on show, ASEC Mimosas alone fielded 9 current youth internationals (8 from the Ivory Coast and 1 from Burkina Faso), whilst WAF is closely affiliated to Feyenoord and has previously developed several players who have gone on to play in the Eredivisie.

The other Ghanaian Academy to participate, Right to Dream, took a mix of players from the Ivory Coast and Ghana aged between 15 and 16 and were coached by Frazer Robertson, an experienced elite development coach from Scotland who has previously worked with the Scottish FA.

Robertson has been with Right to Dream since December 2013, which is a residential Academy that focuses on providing scholars with both a footballing and an academic education. A number of their graduates are now playing professionally all over Europe, with many more taking a path involving further education in the USA.

After travelling to several competitions around Europe earlier on in the year, the academy has historically tended to remain in Ghana for the duration of the autumn term, which runs from September to December, so having the opportunity to participate in a tournament in November was welcomed, as Robertson explained when I spoke to him following the conclusion of the competition.

“A lot of the games we play at home are friendly-based, so there are no points or prizes at stake, so I think if you are playing in an elite environment and you are playing an elite sport, you need to be put in a competitive environment where winning and losing does become important,” says Robertson.

“When this opportunity came from Ivoire Academie to participate in their tournament, we thought it was a great idea. It offered us another learning opportunity and development opportunity for our players to play against some of the best academies in Africa.

“It was a great experience for them in terms of learning how to win games, but also how to win games in the right way so that we don’t move away from our beliefs as an academy or our philosophy when we are put under pressure.”

During the group stages of the tournament, Right to Dream were one of two teams to progress to the semi-finals unbeaten, along with Ivoire Academie, scoring 11 goals in the process. They were joined in the knock-out stages by Leader Foot and WAF, who finished level on points in their group.

The final group standings were as follows:

Group A

P

W

D

L

F

A

Pts

Right to Dream

3

2

1

0

11

4

7

Ivoire Academie

3

1

2

0

8

4

5

WAC

3

1

1

1

5

5

4

Junior Volcans

3

0

0

3

4

15

0

Group B

P

W

D

L

F

A

Pts

Leader Foot

3

2

0

1

5

2

6

WAF Academy

3

2

0

1

5

3

6

ASEC Mimosas

3

1

1

1

3

3

4

Academie Fola

3

0

1

2

2

7

1

The two semi-finals were contrasting affairs, with Right to Dream narrowly beating ASEC Mimosas’ team of internationals 1-0, whilst WAF came back from 3-2 down to beat Ivoire Academie 6-3 in a game which was marred by a red card awarded to the host’s defender Ibrahim Bamba.

The results meant that the final was an all-Ghanaian affair, which after a 1-1 stalemate was settled by penalty kicks, with WAF prevailing 4-3.

The captains of WAF Academy (left) and Right to Dream before the final

Despite being denied victory in the competition overall, Robertson was happy with how his squad performed throughout the competition. He was also full of praise with the way the competition was organised by the host academy.

“I was very happy with how our players conducted themselves, both on and off the pitch,” he said.

“On the pitch they showed the qualities they have; they played some good football at times and put in some good performances. Off the pitch they interacted well with others, demonstrating the morals and character they have, so I was very happy.

“With regards to the tournament, I will be honest before we left I was not really sure that to expect. However when we arrived we were pleased to find that the facilities and the pitches were excellent and the welcome we had on arrival from Ivoire Academie’s staff was fantastic. They looked after our group really well during our stay and I was very impressed with everything about the tournament.”

“As an academy we would be more than happy to participate in future events organised by them and I would recommend them to other academies at well.”

As part of Scout7’s involvement with the event, all of the tournament’s information has been published in our global database. It is one of over 190 youth tournaments held annually which is archived and accessible both via the Intelligent Sports Framework and ProScout7. This includes all match teamsheets and full video from selected games.

Over time, as the participating players progress into senior football, both at club and international level, the archive will provide a good reference point as their future careers develop.

With four goals, Ivoire Academie’s Antoine Sekongo was the leading scorer

Whilst the ultimate goal for the players is to forge a professional career, Robertson is quick to stress that more than anything, providing a path to achieving their potential on and off the pitch is the main objective, irrespective of whether they eventually turn pro.

“Our footballing philosophy is very much that we want to develop technically gifted players, who are able to compete and play at the highest levels of football across the world,” he explains.

“We are very much possession-based and we want to build up through the areas of the pitch. We are not a long ball team, we want to play through from the back, through the middle and into the final third using the attributes that our players have: technical ability, pace and power. We want to use everything we have got to help our players develop within this environment, for their benefit.

“However first and foremost, we want to develop good characters. Some of the players will go on to become professionals, which is great, but they are only going to be professional footballers for a certain length of time.

“They are going to be human beings for the rest of their lives, so the main focus is on character development, both in a footballing environment and an education environment.”

To access all the information archived on Tournoi des Talents des Lagunes in the ISF, search for the competition under the ‘Independent’ heading of the Competitions area, which can be found in the ‘Quick Links’ section of the application’s header menu.

More information on Ivoire Academie can be found on their Facebook page, whilst more details on Right to Dream’s mission can be found at http://righttodream.com.

by Andy Cooper PR & Project Manager

Published 15 November 2016

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