Arsenal Coach: Good infrastructure will help Rwandan players get into European leagues

Arsenal’s Football Development Lead Coach, Simon McManus, says that Rwanda has many youngsters that can make it to Europe’s best teams if fitting infrastructure is put in place to help them sharpen their talents.

McManus told Saturday Sport on Friday after concluding a five-day coaching clinic with 25 young players from the national under-17 football academy.

The continuous development camp is part of the three year Rwanda-Arsenal deal that is now in its second year.

Previous development camps by Arsenal saw 50 young girls and boys trained, and some of them are now flying the Rwandan flag high in the ongoing CECAFA U15 Challenge in Eritrea, having beaten South Sudan and Ethiopia in identical 3-0 wins, before edging Tanzania 2-1 on Friday.

McManus talks to U17 players during the development camp, which is part of the Visit Rwanda deal between Rwanda and Arsenal. Courtesy.

The Arsenal coach admits that it would be difficult to predict exactly when a Rwandan youngster will make it into the English Premier League but “hopefully over time” it will happen.

He said: “I’ve worked with Rwanda’s young talents before – and I’m still doing so, they are very talented. But predicting when or whether they will end up in Europe’s top leagues is tricky for now.

What I would recommend now is to improve football infrastructure, coaching standards and players’ opportunity to learn from a different style of coaching.”

Hopefully, one day, he said, one or several, will make their way to Arsenal FC or elsewhere in Europe.

The five-day development camp was attended by 25 youngsters from Isonga football academy, all aged below 17. Courtesy

He also emphasized that the trainings are not aimed at making Rwandans play like Arsenal but instead getting elements from Arsenal’s playing style combined with the local one to come up with a joint improved playing style.

Developing talents at a younger age

McManus reminded that developed football abroad is a result of developing talents earlier, a good method that Rwanda can also adapt to promote its football.

“It is a problem detectable in Rwanda and Africa in general where countries only focus on senior teams. When you invest in early development, you embed fundamentals that will help young talents to broaden their potentials.”

He revealed that discussions are underway with Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa) to see the possibility of early development programmes, underscoring that the importance of this approach is getting a steady stream of talented players, which is rarely the case in Africa compared to other parts of the world with advanced football.

We learnt a lot from the camp

Striker Trèsor Hirwa, 16, says that the camp by Arsenal helped him develop his listening skills and improved his confidence with the ball.

“The coach taught us to listen and communicate while playing. Being at ease and having confidence while having the ball is also another thing that we learnt,” he said.

To Mico Ndoli Kevin, the camp challenged him to dream big.

“We are now being trained by a coach from Arsenal, which means we are learning same skills as those in England. This made me realize that nothing is impossible, now I believe I can make it to professional ranks in Europe.”  

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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