BAA youngsters impress in Spain
By Colin Thompson
Professional hopefuls Enrique Russell, Kane Crichlow, Shane Simmons, Knory Scott and Jahkari Furbert have made significant strides at the UECornella Football Academy in Spain.
The Bermuda Athletic Association Football Academy players have been at Cornella for the past several months where they have done well adapting to Spanish football.
“There is a huge difference between local football and Spanish football,” BAA technical director Kenny Thompson noted. “The transition is not easy but the players have adapted well. Our foundation work has played a critical role in their ability to adapt and compete here. This has been highlighted here and I am proud of that.”While Thompson is encouraged by his players’ progress, he stressed that there’s room for improvement.
“From my observations, the players have improved but it is important not to get carried away as there are many more improvements required,” he said. “The players must accept that the desire to improve is continuous, not just over a three month or one season period, but something they must be prepared to sustain continuously during their youth football years. This gives them a better chance fulfilling their ambitions.” He added: “The idea that the players will be here for a short period and realise their ambitions for top football is inaccurate. Ideally, 10 years in a top football environment is required for top player development.
“The players our boys are competing with in training and matches have already been in this football jungle for some six years. Our boys are adapting. This speaks well of their desire, but they must not lose focus as there is a long road ahead.”
Asked how long his players will remain in Spain, the former national coach replied: “Indefinitely.”
The biggest challenge the local players have faced is adapting to the “speed and overall competitiveness” of the Spanish game, Thompson said. “The training sessions and games are much more intense than they are accustomed to in local football,” he added. “Every training session and match demands exceptional ball control at top speed, game awareness and speed of thought. The intensity demands are extremely high and all of this places great demands on each players’ mental strength capacity.”
Thompson said his players have “settled in well” at Cornella and “made to feel very much at home within the club”.He said they are also coping well living in a different culture to what they have been accustomed to in Bermuda. “Cornella is a really nice area and the boys are integrating well,” he added. “Language is still a challenge although they are understanding and communicating more; in some instances quite impressively.”
The local foursome are the first BAA Football Academy players to take advantage of the partnership between BAA and Cornella where they been given the opportunity to further their football development and education while playing in official Catalan Football Federation matches. BAA struck a partnership last summer with Cornella who hold official ties with La Liga giants FC Barcelona.
Thompson believes the partnership will provide local players with a “realistic chance” of moving towards their dream of playing professional football. “They have been provided with a real opportunity to work towards this while not forgetting that their educational and social development is well balanced to ensure life success,” he added. Thompson said “the opportunity is there for other players to be a part of this programme” in the future should they meet the criteria.
“It is important to keep in mind that there are football and social prerequisites required,” he added. “The players must be able to arrive in Spain whereby they can compete from the first day. With this, there must be a realistic challenge for the players to compete slightly above their current threshold that is at the same time competitively relevant for the level in Spain. Realistic and challenging work must be done here in Bermuda first.”
Among the many players to have honed their skills at Cornella is Spanish defender Jordi Alba who was signed by Barcelona for $17.4 million last summer.