28 January 2018:
It’s 3 pm on the hot Berekuso pitch: 30 young boys are running drills across the field, kicking footballs back and forth, halting intermittently to take instructions from their coach. Meet the Somnia Football Academy, an after-school football and mentoring program for young Berekuso football talents.
Started by Joseph Yaw Akyin ’18 and Gilbert Nii Tackie ‘18, both Ashesi students, the goal of the academy is to provide a structured football program for the young talented kids in Berekuso, in the hope of exposing them to opportunities for a possible football career. For most talented footballers in underserved communities like Berekuso, making it to the big stage is a long shot due to lack of exposure and limited opportunities. It is this gap that the duo hope to address.
“We are passionate about football,” Gilbert said. “And in every athlete’s success story, we realized that they seized an opportunity. Berekuso has very talented young footballers, who, unfortunately, may not be exposed to opportunities others have. To address this, we started a football academy as a way to give them some exposure. For most of the kids, it is football or nothing else and we look to help them explore more options.”
The football academy’s mission is two-fold: training and exposing young talented footballers to opportunities and helping them build a strong academic resume. In line with this, a unique component of the academy is the “No school, No play” policy. Students who skip school or perform poorly don’t get the privilege of playing football.
“Through the Somnia academy, we seek to create a dual pathway to success for the children of Berekuso, either as top sportsmen or as top academicians,” they explain. “This way, we know that whether it is a career in football or not, the children have something solid to fall on.”
Over the past two years, the academy has grown from an idea to a project. Supported by the Ford Foundation, the duo has expanded the academy, acquiring football kits and logistics for training, and are looking forward to further growth.
“We would love to develop Somnia into an actual sports academy where we house and groom promising talent across multiple disciplines,” said Joseph. “Our goal is to build one that will equal the reputation of some of the finest academies in the world, giving the kids in low-income areas a good shot at success. We also hope to eventually implement a program targeted at girls too. By doing this, we can move the needle in getting more girls to participate in sports.”
For Joseph and Gilbert who hope to pursue careers in sports administration after Ashesi, the academy gives them needed experience, and also the opportunity to impact the lives of others. “We believe by running the academy, we gain the introductory skills in managing a football institution,” they said. “Eventually, we hope to develop a module within our education system that is tailored to grooming young athletes into promising future leaders.”