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Catching them young

1973
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Catching them young
YOUTH COACH: Ricardo Marape

Football Academy founded in Francistown

Francistown Botswana Football Association Regional Coach Ricardo Marape has big plans for local football and has founded an academy to help fulfill his dream.

The project, named the Ric Marape Football Academy, is off to a positive start, with more than 60 young players of both genders gathering at the old Francistown Stadium every Saturday to go through their paces.

“We have 45 players aged between 5 and 13. The rest, totalling 20 in number are above 13. It’s a good number to start with,” said a content Marape happily.

Quizzed on what inspired him to launch a football academy, Marape, who has a UEFA B coaching licence, explained his experience as a coach has taught him that to have a chance of playing at the top level, a footballer’s talent must be spotted, and subsequently nurtured, from as young an age as possible.

“The talent is there, all we need is to harness it,” stressed Marape, who has dedicated much of his adult life to developing young talent in the country.

Besides being involved in the BFA’s development programmes, such as the now defunct Chappies Little League and the BFA’s School of Excellence project, Marape has coached several junior national teams and premier league sides over the years.

He was also an assistant to current Zebras coach Peter Butler early in the Englishman’s reign.

“The aim of my academy is to teach children football but also give them life skills as well. We intend to help the best kids get to Europe,” said Marape, who proudly revealed that two of his charges, a boy and girl, have been selected for a two week training programme with Manchester United.

“I made many connections while doing my B licence in England and this is one of them. If the kids impress, United, or any other club, may keep them and take care of their football development and academic education,” he said excitedly.

The ambitious Marape, who has received help from the City of Francistown, who have given him use of the stadium, and Joy Foundation, who have provided him with kit and equipment, eventually plans to partner his academy with others in Africa and Europe.

“Academies in South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe have such partnerships and it is benefiting their football as their players get exposed to proper development at a tender age,” he explained.