Arusha Future Stars Academy: the report
Somewhat disillusioned we arrive in Arusha. Nairobi to Arusha can be traveled in four hours, without too many problems, we were told. A relatively easy, short travel day for In2Afrika. Only 40 kilometers from the Tanzanian border, the bus decided to quite. Then there was the spare-bus, which arrived not much later, but there was not enough place for these two Muzungu's. Through a taxi and a alternative bus (which was paid for by our bus company, after some insistence, of course) we arrived a little later than planted in Arusha. Such a travel day, that's promising for our further stay in Arusha ...
Despite the concern (somewhat exaturated here, but you got to do something) we had a great time in Arusha. Our entire stay we were taken care of by the team of the Arusha Future Stars Academy (AFSA) as if we were family. We visited Arusha over the Easter weekend, so there was not too much activity on the fields, unfortunately. But this was more than offset by the passion and care with which we were treated in Arusha. Moreover, our visit to the AFSA was a reunion with old friends. We met Alfred and Thomas, founder of AFSA and his right hand. already in Tilburg, when they ran an internship at Willem II. Let's briefly refresh the memory; what does the Arusha Future Stars Academy again?
Alfred Itaeli is founder and director of the AFSA. After a study in Tanzania, Alfred departed on an athletic scholarship to America to study there and play football. In the United States he played on semi-professional level. Upon returning to his homeland Alfred got the idea that even in his city of Arusha something had to be organized for young footballers to work better under supervision. So they may someday be able to walk the same path as he did.
In 2009 Alfred began with organizing footballtraining on a local field. This was an instant success. In the third week more than 200 (?!) kids showed up on the football field to come and train. The training-acticities had to become more structured to proceed, In 2009 Alfred founded the AFSA. Meanwhile, he put more than 6 years of his personal time and money into this project. The academy now has 7 teams (from U8 to U20) with more than 200 players in total, all of which train two or three times a week, and on Saturday, where possible, play matches. The AFSA also has two women's teams. Every team is trained under the guidance of two trainers, and use fields which are made available by an international school and a coffee plantation.
In addition to football, the focus at the AFSA especially lays on being a Youth-Empowerment Movement, with the focus on the vulnerable youth of Arusha. They work on this empowerment through three so-called 'core activities': Training, Education and Competition.
Core insight is the use of football in all its facets, as a means to inspire the youth in Arusha and motivating them to be involved model citizens. The football and the way FSA lets the kids experience this, is learning the players to cope with certain factors of life, and they become strong. Teamwork, positivity, healthy living and dedication are its core values. And there is one very simple rule: no school, no play.
For the AFSA we have tried to identify long before the trip how we can support this project. The team of the academy tells us again and again that progress has to be made especially in football technical level. The main task for In2Afrika is to find out in Arusha if this really is the priority of a youth-empowermment-movement in Tanzania and if so, how we can help them do this!
Who are the young people who end up with the AFSA and what role does sports play in their lives? On the Friday we go do 'home visits' with a number of players from the AFSA, to answer these questions. We speak with Destiny and Atibu, two players from the U20 team. Destiny is a 18 year old boy, who’s life is football. He has traveled all the way from Nigeria to Arusha, to play at the AFSA. There, founder Alfred caught him like a father. They helped him find housing and additionally facilitated a computer course for Destiny, which made that, next to the football he could also keep learning. Destiny is very focused on football. He foresees a future in professional football anywhere in Africa!
Atibu is the captain of the U20 and a true leader. He takes us to his house, where the walls are packed with articles, photos and headlines from the newspaper, all about football. For him the AFSA should be a stepping stone to a career as a professional in Africa as well.
Both guys are good footballers. They have both been on trial with a club in the top division in Tanzania and even there they were well received. For these guys, AFSA can cooperate in their life dream: to become a professional footballer. But it also reflects the dilemma in which the AFSA is located. With the training of the talents in the academy the AFSA can ensure that these guys go for a better future. A professional player in Tanzania after all gets a good salary. However, not every player is blessed with such talent, let alone that many players will get to the real professional football. The AFSA is thereby primarily a youth-empowerment movement, which uses sport as a means and not an end. Should priority lie with those few talents and thus the football technical side of things? Or should the priority be in the exemplary role which the academy plays on social matters, directing and supporting the players, with football as a tool?
This dilemma can also be translated into the use of funding, or the order of priorities. Should the money earned or fundraised will go to better coaches? Or should the money should go to pay for the people who keep the academy going every day? Is the priority to improve training methods and accommodations? Or may the priority be in helping players with school or job training?
Anyway, the AFSA has one very strong side. It ensures that there is a kind of social control within the academy, based on that one, simple rule: no school, no play. The oldest players in the U20 play an exemplary role in this. When there is a player not appearing at school, this information somehow always reaches the trainers of the Future Stars. They can then talk to a player about this. Why were you not at school? Can your parents still pay the school fees? Are there other things you find more important than going to school? The AFSA sends young people wherever possible in the right direction.
Lack of motivation is not a problem for the players. We visit Arusha over the Easter holidays, which means that there is really no playing football the whole week. Coach Thomas and Destiny, however, only need to send a few messages on Saturday morning and there are 15 guys ready for a workout, especially for In2Afrika! In this training, for us it becomes clear that the level is not much different with Dutch amateur-football. When you can see behind the physical and African style and the rather moderate fields, football technical level is not bad at all! There is serious training on the basis of pre-thought-forms by the trainers. And even in Africa, the training traditionally ends with a nice game.
As mentioned, the AFSA puts strong emphasis on soccer technical aspects for future improvements. Better educated trainers, better training methods and preferebly its own complex. After our time in Arusha we think the football-technical part is already at a stable level. But that's a matter of making choices. What, according to us, makes AFSA so special is the social aspect of the academy. Support in education, social control among the players and learning social skills through football. The funds will not be abundant for the future, so a choice has to made about which aspect is predominant. With In2Afrika we like to help thinking about this decision, and about which role we and possibly FC Geleen Zuid can play in the future of the AFSA.