Karamoko DembeleDalton Harris
my latest blog post As a 13 year old he’s played for the U15’s in a tournament against West Bromwich Albion, Deportivo La Coruna, Lyon and the prestigious Barcelona academy and completely outshone during the tournament. Barcelona’s academy is famed for bringing players through to the first team with the likes of Messi, Fabregas, Bellerin, Pique, Xavi, Iniesta and so on.
This is amazing progress to see a 13 year old, a year 9 at school, training and playing with players 7 years older than their age. This is fantastic and I really do encourage the young boy, however he has to be cautious and concentrate on school work and football. As there is such a frenzy around him, it’s dangerous for his head to become turned and I really hope he enjoys his youth of being a 13 year old boy first and foremost. Refer to our other blog on burnout from Wayne Rooney for more on this.
A similar situation happened a few years back when Islam Feruz, also for Celtic, was touted as the next prodigy at 15 years old. At 16 he moved to Chelsea and hasn’t progressed how everyone expected a player of his ability to do so and freely admits it “I had my head turned at 15 years of age. I didn’t realise there was money involved in football. I just played football for the love of the game.”
This is where the dark side of football begins. If you’re good, and in this case exceptional, people within the world of football see you as a way of making money and will throw all sorts of crazy ideas, money and benefits at you in the hope that you’ll become an asset in which they make money from. Unfortunately it happens.
If we look at other child prodigies, Francis Jeffers, Islam Feruz and Freddy Adu, who at 14 years old age was given a first team contract in America and was compared to Pele. However, they’ve all gone on to achieve not a great deal. With so much potential and hype surrounding them, they were set up for failure.
Francis Jeffers made his first team debut at 16 and earned an £11 million pound move to Arsenal at 20 years of age in 2001. Between his big money move and fame, fortune and hype – he failed to make any sort of impact throughout his career, he’s recently just retired after scoring a total of 40 goals in his career, 18 of which were scored before age 20. A further 22 were scored between ages 20 and 35 when he retired after playing in the Maltese national league.
Freddy Adu, dubbed as the new Pele and next sporting great at age 14, is now 26 and is synonymous with failure and unfulfilled potential. With him stating that “I had a lot too early” which was my down fall. He’s played in Brazil, Finland and Serbia and with all due respect isn’t where everyone thought he would end up playing. He’s now playing for Tampa Bay Rowdies in America, his 12th club in 12 years.
Islam Feruz, the 16 year old wonder, someone who I’d played against, has moved to Chelsea and hasn’t featured for their first team. He’s had spells with Russian side Krylia Sovetov Samara, Greek team OFI Crete and Kazakhstani Premier League side FC Aktobe. With the talent and hype that surrounded him, he shouldn’t have played for these obscure teams and should in fact be in the premier league. He’s good enough. By his own admission he says “I remember it all just seemed to happen at once and hit me overnight. There was so much publicity. It was very hard to handle.”
What I’m trying to say is that just because these players have an exceptional ability at such a young age, with the potential to achieve great status within football. We as football fans, players and coaches need to not heap pressure and praise on him. We need to let them enjoy playing football and develop naturally making sure they don’t get thrust into the cut throat sport that it is too soon and they throw away their talent for big money moves and become lost in the game by setting them up for failure.