European football academies have long been considered a global conveyor belt for talented young footballers aspiring to break into the lucrative world of professional football.
But a training school in Nairobi has shown its prowess on the world stage, beating top European youth teams like Barcelona and Athletico Madrid, presenting Kenya as a hotspot for future talent.
Acakoro Football Academy, located on the outskirts of Nairobi, has modest training grounds. They have a single pitch which often fills with large puddles during Kenya’s long rainy season. The grass is long, and the club’s grounds are surrounded by tin-roofed informal housing.
The academy draws its players from the local area, many of whom come from single parent or HIV positive families that often live in poverty. Alongside the pitch is Dandora, Nairobi’s largest dumpsite, where before Acakoro, several of the team’s children used to work scouring the hills of trash for food or recyclables to sell.
“Every kid in Korogocho faces a challenge everyday,” Mohamed Rashid, Acakoro’s coach, tells CNN.
That being said, this is one of the country’s only professional football academies, and a chance for young, aspiring Kenyans to nurture their skills, and have a shot at the big time. And they have proven themselves on the world’s stage.
Over 100 boys and girls train every afternoon.
Acakoro fosters a positive, team-spirited culture, and a holistic approach that ensures the students also develop academically.
It was set-up in 2013 as an NGO by Stefan Koeglberger along with a Kenyan partner. The students receive full school tuition and meals.
While still in its early years, the training formula is paying dividends — and the team have won prestigious competitions.