As African elite national football teams battle for the continent's most coveted football prize, The African Cup of Nations in Gabon, Kenyans are watching from the sidelines. Hoping that in 2019, our national team will be there competing against and alongside the best as we did 13 years ago in 2004. But as we wait, do we have the necessary strategies and policies in place to take us to the Cup of Nations or even the World Cup. Cheza Sport CEO speaks to Kenyanstar about the need for football academies in improving the Kenyan game. For his efforts with Cheza Sports, Collins Olimba is our Kenyan Star of the week.
KS: Who is Collins Olimba?
I'm a 26 years old holder of a Bachelor of Science degree from the Technical University of Kenya. I'm passionate about football and I have been coaching young footballers since my post high school days. I'm the founder and CEO of Cheza Sport Academy, an AFC Leopards and West Ham United fan.
KS: Tell us about Cheza sports?
Cheza Sports is a football school for both girls and boys between the ages of 4 -19 years located in Nairobi's South B area. We teach the young ones not just football but also life skills. I founded Cheza Sports academy in 2013 after an experience with the Cheza Afrika Community Club.
KS: What is the most important thing you teach children at Cheza Sports?
At Cheza Sports growth in character is very important and we prioritize it in most of our programs. Football wise we try to give our players the freedom to explore and discover positions where they are most comfortable playing in.
KS: At what age or point can you tell if a particular kid is going to be a hit and what position they are going to excel in?
No particular age because these kids develop at different paces and in reaction to a number of different other factors in their life. So while for some you might be able to tell as early as 8 years for others you have to wait a little longer while they enjoy and explore.
KS: How would you sum up the year 2016 for Cheza Sports Academy?
I think 2016 was a great year for us, the greatest we've had so far and possibly a breakthrough year because we had quite a number of opportunities coming our way. We had our team participate in the FKF Children league and even though we finished at position 16 out of 23 teams, the participation was a great milestone for us. We were also able to send two players to participate in the Dane International Youth Soccer Tournament.
KS: What impact do you think Cheza Sports has on Kenyan football?
It is very important for our football players to learn the basics right from the very beginning. We have seen players in the league and even in the National team who do not have even the basics of ball control. What this academy is doing is what needs to be done at a larger scale which is giving our football talents an opportunity to learn the basics of the game before going professional and we hope that we are setting the pace for more academies to join in.
KS: How many more academies do we need to come on board? Are we doing enough to develop and nurture our sports talents?
There are quite a number but we are far short of what would be ideal. I think we are doing worse off than even our East Africa neighbors, Tanzania and Uganda. The federation should encourage or create an environment that will encourage more academies to come up.
KS: Have you been following AFCON? Do you have kids you think will feature in AFCON at some point in their careers?
Yes i have been watching AFCON and yes i have a lot of talented kids who i believe have great football careers ahead of them for both club and country.
KS: Why isn’t there enough hype around AFCON 2017?
I can't tell but may be it is because there are not enough high profile players in the tournament?
KS: In your opinions who are the outstanding Talents in the Kenya Premier League.
I didn't watch a lot of league matches this past season but they say that boy Erick Ouma is quite something. I have watched him play a few games and i agree.
KS: Talking of Erick Ouma, What is your take on our Young Player of the Year moving to Georgia? Do you think KPL teams should do more to hold on to their best talents? If yes what should they do?
I think it is a good move both for the player and the country. It gives him exposure, experience and tougher competition within which to grow and probably a better package as well monetary wise. So overall there is no aspect of that move that is bad. And i don't think our local clubs have sufficient finances to hold on to players against advances of clubs in most foreign leagues.
KS: How do you recruit candidates to join your academy?
We are open and we welcome all children.
KS: Do you charge an admission fee?
Yes we charge an annual fee of Ksh. 2,500. We also scout for talent children who benefit from our scholarship program.
KS: What are the challenges you face when running the academy?
Major problem is finances because a lot of expensive equipment are needed every year in order for us to accomplish our training objectives so we hope as we grow the brand we can attract partners and well wishers who will help us meet this challenge. Another major challenge is lack of coaching expertise so if we can get into partnerships to bring experienced coaches to our academy then it would be great. One last challenge has been the schooling schedule of the children which leaves us with very little training hours but this seems to be well taken care of by the new ministry of education regulations.
KS: What time and Day do you hold your training sessions?
On weekdays we hold the training Sessions from Tuesday to Friday at 5pm, on Saturdays from 9am to 4pm for different age groups and on Sundays from 2pm to 4pm.
KS: What plans do you have for the academy?
In the short term we are increasingly professionalizing the academy as we expand our network and seek partnerships. Eventually our long term plan is to set up a Cheza Sports complex that will include a formal school.
KS: Your parting Shot?
Well i just want to encourage all the young people to follow their dreams and work hard to attain them. I also would like to call on corporate organizations, well wishers and stake holders in the Industry to join hands in supporting initiatives like this that are intend to developing our sports talents.