A football academy is an educational institution devoted to train and nurture young and upcoming talents. A football academy offers academic football courses for aspiring footballers from as young as eight years and above. Almost all football clubs all over the world have football academies for feeding their major teams.
Which Courses Does a Football Academy Offer?
Football academies do not only focus on what happens on the football pitch or in a football game but also focus on other things involving the game. Various courses offered are;
- FA Referees seminars
- Psychological assessments
- BSc Degree Courses
- Media training
- Nutrition, health & lifestyle advice
- Team building activities
- Game analysis
- Physiotherapy sessions / first aid training
- Sessions about contracts with a FIFA-approved Player’s Agent
- Specialist goalkeeping sessions from UEFA qualified coaches
- Trial matches, Competitive matches in Youth Leagues, Under 21 league, Men’s Reserve League, and friendlies.
Example of Football Academies
In Europe, most of the big clubs such as Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 in Germany, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in England, Benfica, Sporting CP and Porto in Portugal, Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Ajax and Feyenoord in the Netherlands among many others, are regarded as having some of the finest football academies and have produced many players regarded as some of the best in world football.
Other small but successful academies include Grêmio, Santos and São Paulo in Brazil, Boca juniors in Argentina, Liberty Professionals and West African Football Academy (WAFA) in Ghana, Club Deportivo Guadalajara Academy in Mexico, and West Ham youth academy.
West Ham’s football academy is known as ‘The Academy of Football’ and has produced many English talents that have gone on to play with larger clubs in the Premier League.
List of Footballers Produced by Football Academies
The football academy system has proven to be a good youth system since it has produced world class players such as;
Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Luke Shaw. James Ward-Prowse and notably, Gareth Bale are talents from Southampton academy.
The Ajax football academy is one of the best youth systems in the world and has produced quality players like Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, John Heitinga, Nigel de Jong, Maarten Stekelenburg, Ryan Babel, Daley Blind, Urby Emanuelson, Christian Eriksen and Siem de Jong. Others include Thomas Vermaelen, Gregory van der Wiel, Jan Vertonghen, Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard, Dennis Bergkamp, Frank and Ronald de Boer, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert.
David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Johnny Evans, Gary Neville and Phil Neville all produced by the Manchester United Academy.
Bayern Munich have produced Owen Hargreaves, Emre Can, Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels, Dietmar Hamann, Diego Contento, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Thomas Muller, David Alaba and Gianluca Gaudino all emerged from the club’s football academy.
Boca Juniors nichnamed ‘Boca Factory’ has produced notable players including Carlos Tevez, Fernando Gago, Ever Banega and Nicolas Gaitan.
The Sporting Lisbon youth system is noted for producing Cristiano Ronaldo before joining Manchester united at the age of 18. Other notable names include, Luis Figo, Rui Patricio, Eric Dier, Nani, Simao, Jao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Ricardo Quaresma, Silvestre Varela, Beto, Jose Fonte, Luis Boa Morte and Nene.
Even though Real are known for buying world class players with huge amounts, they make sure their football academy which is referred to as ‘La Fabrica’ (the factory) also nurture young talented players. Notable names among them are; Samuel Eto’o, Raul, Guti, Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Juan Mata and Roberto Soldado, Alvaro Morata, Jose Callejon, Dani Carvajal and Jese Rodriguez.
Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan emerged from Liberty Professionals. Other known names like Derek Boateng, John Pantsil and Emmanuel Osei all emerged from the club’s football academy.
Tony Adams, Andy Cole, Ashley Cole, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Seb Larsson, Armand Traore and Cesc Fabregas, all emerged from Arsenal football academy.
Barcelona, the Catalan giants known as ‘La Masia’, or ‘The Farmhouse’ is known to be the world’s leading soccer/football academy for the past decades.
La Masia youth products include Pedro, Jordi Alba, Giovani dos Santos, Sergi Roberto, Cristian Tello, Gerard Deulofeu, Marc Bartra, Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Pepe Reina, Victor Valdes, Mikel Arteta, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Motta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Bojan and Thiago Alcantara.
Julian Draxler, Max Meyer, Kaan Ayhan, Felix Platte, Leroy Sane, Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Howedes and Mesut Ozil all went through FC Schalke 04 football academy system.
Sao Paulo youth products include Kaka, Hernanes, Jean, Oscar, Lucas Moura, Cafu, Denilson and Rogerio Ceni.
Clairefontaine is one of the most successful football academy in France managed by the French Football Federation. They have produced players such as, Nicolas Anelka, Hatem Ben-Arfa, Abou Diaby, Sebastien Bassong, Mehdi Benatia, William Gallas, Louis Saha and most notably, Thierry Henry.
Other Notable Football Academy Products Are;
Neymar – Santos
Luka Modric – Dinamo Zagreb Academy
Ander Herrera – Atletico Bilbao
Robin van Persie – Feyenoord Academy
Javier Hernandez Chicharito – Club Deportivo Guadalajara Academy
Fernando Llorente – Atletico Bilbao
Bruno Martins Indi – Feyenoord Academy