Montego Bay United kick off $10m-a-year youth academy
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Former Premier League champions Montego Bay United (MBU) delivered on a promise to start a youth academy when they announced an ambitious $10-million-a-year project that they hope will help the development of football across the country.
Three months ago when a group led by businessman Yoni Epstein took over the running of the club from Orville Powell, Epstein spoke about setting up a youth academy. On Tuesday he announced that they kicked off the programme last weekend under the guidance of English-born Sulaiman Nunes who is of Guyanese heritage and is married to a Jamaican.
The plan is for the academy to feature up to 150 children between the ages of five and 17 years old. They hope that the academy players can develop and transition into the club squad, be primed for the international market and ultimately can earn selection to the national team.
“There was one main thing that we said we were going to do as a developmental project for the club, and that was launching our youth football academy and today we sit here officially launching or youth academy,” Epstein said at a media briefing held at the boardroom of itel in the Montego Bay Freeport.
He sad the first set of 30 children had started training on Monday.
“Part of this journey is not only for looking at, you know, the future of the Montego Bay United Football Club, and what players could matriculate into the senior premier [league] side, but it’s the general development of the youth here in St James.
“We know that the benefits of football, we know the benefits of community engagement and as a Premier League club and one of the, no pun intended, premier teams in the league, you know we felt it necessary to follow the guidelines of the Jamaica Football Federation and launch our youth academy.”
He said the academy would be seeking children from the schools and communities in Montego Bay, 60 per cent of the 150 will be on scholarships.
“We have sessions Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, in the afternoons after school and on Saturdays,” Epstein added.
Nunes, who has lived in Barbados and who has been coaching for about 12 years and has a UEFA Level 4 certification, said he has worked in several professional settings, including “Barnett FC in London, Walsall in Birmingham, Cheltenham, just outside of Birmingham and up until recently last year work for Birmingham City Football Academy which is in the championship present and they are considered like one of the top — they call it category one academies — so I have that experience with that”.
He is also a qualified teacher.
“I have over 20 years of teaching experience, both in the primary setting and also in the secondary setting and also in college settings, so I have a variety of wide range of experience and within that teaching experience. I’m also qualified or I have taught sports science to college students up to 19 years of age.”
Nunes, who said he was in the island last year, said the idea is to move away from relying on high school football for developing young players.
“Obviously, slightly in contrast to what we have been seeing that’s happening in Jamaica as a whole, which is a schoolboy system, we’re looking at developing a youth programme that starts from five years of age. Why? Because it’s it’s recommended by experts by sports scientists, that between five and 11 is a key window of opportunity for player development.
“So we don’t want to wait until they’re in the schoolboy system when they’re 12 or 13 or 14. By that time players have already developed bad habits, which I have seen over here when I was here during the summer. Whereas, when we get them from five, six, seven, eight or nine years, those players are young and they’re receptive and also we look to develop those technical, tactical, social skills and really hone in on that and develop them,” he explained.