Turkey must invest in football academies

ARDA ALAN IŞIK
ISTANBUL
Published

Who would have imagined that Ryan Giggs would be running a football academy in Vietnam? But, the former Manchester United legend and caretaker coach has done just that by signing a deal with the Promotion Fund of Vietnamese Football Talents FC. The move will be seen as a turning point in his career. Even though he is expected to visit Vietnam only twice a year, the idea of bringing him to the Far East, far from his comfort zone in England, is a remarkable achievement in itself. But to do so, money was not enough; a concrete and daring vision for the future of football was also needed, something we badly need in Turkish football.

The teams and countries which have dedicated a huge amount of money and care into youth development have enjoyed the fruits of their projects in the recent years. One of the prominent examples, Barcelona has established a strong tradition of developing young talents with its famous, La Masia. Porto, another great example of producing and nurturing young talents, has not only become a powerful side in Europe but also created a very profitable business model of exporting players. In international competitions, Germany, Belgium, and Spain have all ripped the benefit of developing generations of footballers.

Unfortunately, there has been no such long-term initiative in Turkey. The very few projects that were picked up were either canceled when the people who started them were sacked or their big words were not supported with big money. But it is almost certain that Turkey cannot continue relying on Turkish players born and raised in European countries, since the development of these players are not related to Turkish football, and their development depends on the countries they are based at. If Turkey wants to build a generation that can compete with Europe's bests, it must first build the means of production. In other words, without football academies to raise players, filling the vacuum will not be possible. At this point, this issue should not be left to the mercy of the private sector, which is preoccupied with its own interests and may not put the right effort in raising players for the long term. Thus, government action is necessary to revive Turkish football, its player base and create a competitive football economy. If the first step is successful and the projects get the desired results, only then can the state hand over the projects to the private sector or teams.

The plan is very simple, but it will require much effort. There have to be full-fledged football academies in every city, if not, at least in every region. These academies must provide the young players with essential coaching, training, shelter, and scholarship in order to keep them focused. In addition, the staff and coaches at the facilities must be handpicked, as if they were being hired to work for the best teams in Turkey. Although there might not be any notable changes in the short run, the state should continue to invest in the academies, giving them the highest priority in Turkish football. If Vietnam can bring Ryan Giggs to train its future generations of footballers, Turkey can also follow a similar model.

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