October 4 2022 9:12 AM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Selling dreams

7 selling dreams
(Photo: Handout from Men Media)
Consider these two frightening facts: Less than 1 percent of players who are registered, in any age bracket, at football clubs go on to make their debut at the professional level. And 75 percent of those who do sign as professionals are no longer in the game by the time they are 21. But, of those entering academies at the age of nine, less than 0.5 percent will ever make a living from the game.اضافة اعلان

What about the 99.5 percent? Well, let us start with Jeremy Wiston. Jeremy was part of Manchester City’s Elite Squad at under-13 level in 2016. A very promising player at Manchester City’s academy, he was released by the club in May 2019 after suffering an injury. He was found hanged in his bedroom on the October 24 of last year.

Several boys mentioned during an interviews with media that they felt they were taken on simply to act as “training partners” for the one or two boys in their cohort who were identified as having the potential to progress.

Tom Hamilton, now 31, was at the Bristol City Academy between the ages of 12–19. He was released after suffering an injury and his departure from the club signaled a downward spiral into crime. Tom spent eight months in a youth offenders’ institute after police caught him with cocaine.

Max Noble has sparked much of the current conversation around football academies with allegations about his time at Fulham’s academy. In an interview with Sky News, Noble said he suffered with depression after leaving the club.

“They are young boys looked after by men, by coaches who don’t care for them, and that’s the biggest issue — there’s no care in football.”

He added: “At 16, I’m getting injections in my knees — painkillers given to me daily. I’ve got stories of friends with four or five strappings on just to train. You’re playing through pain, you’re playing through ‘niggles’ but they’re not niggles and later down the line you’re going to have a serious problem and that’s what happened to me.”

Ali Al-Hamadi is 18 years old and plays for Swansea City Under-23s. It’s rare to hear a youngster in the system deliver a critical analysis but Ali’s moral fiber runs deep, particularly when it comes to Jeremy Wisten, the 18-year-old released from Manchester City academy, who was found hanged in his bedroom last October.

“Ultimately, we are products; unfortunately, and it is a business, so if you’re not needed they’re just going to pass you on or sell you,” he said.

The most damning statistic of all is only 180 of the 1.5 million players who are playing organized youth football in England at any one time will make it as a Premier League pro. That’s a success rate of 0.012 percent. To put that into prospective, chances of dying in air/space accidents, or dying from falling off a ladder are more likely to happen for players playing organized youth football in England than becoming a Premier League pro.

Food for thought: Ronaldo de Lima, a Brazilian player idolized by legends of the game, would have never have made it to the top leagues if he was not offered an amateur contract by Sao Cristavao, a struggling club in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.

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