Mr. Leslie Oghomienor, Chairman, FCBEscola Lagos, Barcelona Football Academy in Lagos, in this interview with Mary Ekah, speaks on how young Nigerians are being taught the values of ethics and coexistence, modelled on FC Barcelona methodology
Tell us about the FCBEscola Soccer School, Lagos. Is it like the proper school?
The Barcelona Football Academy otherwise known as FCBEscola is an academy for children who are interested in learning soccer skills. We help them develop physically, mentally and emotionally. We are able to teach them the values of life through sports. It is modelled after the FC Barcelona soccer methodology of promoting values such as teamwork, respect, ambition, effort and modesty. Students are taught by the FC Barcelona sports soccer directors. And then we have coaches that have been trained in the FC Barcelona ways. The academy offers exclusive opportunity for Nigerian youths to learn the methodology and values from the unmatched Barça style and philosophy. The prestigious academy follows the FC Barcelona model aimed at developing youth talent on and off the soccer field. So with professional nurturing from the FC Barcelona coaches using the FC Barcelona soccer methodology, the students are taught the club values of ethics and coexistence that are so representative of FC Barcelona: tolerance, respect, solidarity, friendship, fair play, integration, effort and happiness to enable them succeed in their professional soccer career at international levels. These are values that can be used later in life even after they have left football.
There are various reasons that people want to join this school; some children come to the school for other personal reasons while we have children that are here for the purpose of being footballers in future. But all the same, we strive to make people here excellent football players. The school is owned by FC Barcelona but we are just the local partner here in Nigeria and that is why we have local project director FC Barcelona working here with us. We admit children from age five to 18, which we train for 10 months. The school is focused on developing the skills of the footballers such that after graduation, they can pursue careers as professional footballers with international football clubs. It offers talented youths the opportunity to acquire a formal education while training as professional footballers.
You admit children of school age, so how do you manage that it. Does not affect their normal school attendance?
Ours is an after school programme, our classes start from around 4p.m. to suit kids that attend schools. And for those that are out of school, we have training for them in the morning period and on every Saturday, there is a tournament and all the players have to be here to come and showcase their skills. The school started in November last year.
How exactly is the school is ran?
The educational curriculum is modelled after the Nigerian educational system and some aspects of the British curriculum, allowing the students to be able to write exams such as the West African School Certificate Examinations, (WASC), National Examination Certificate (NECO), International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the International Baccalaureate (IB). As part of the academic training, students will be exposed to languages, including English, Spanish, French and other Modern European Languages, General and Applied Mathematics, Humanities and Social Sciences, Creative, Technical and Vocational studies and Natural Sciences as areas of study. FCBEscola Soccer School, Lagos, is first of its kind in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. The school provides opportunities for potential footballers from all over Nigeria and other parts of Africa to receive first class training honing their football skills.
What has been the response of Nigerians towards this idea?
The responses have been fantastic and the turnout huge. We see our students grow in terms of their football skills, technical ability and tactical ability. We have tested them within Nigeria with other schools and have tested them abroad against other teams. In fact, last April, we travelled with about 30 kids to play in Barcelona and they performed so well in the competition we participated in. We sent our students, just recently to Spain and from there we are moving to other parts of the world for more training so that they can play professionally against other teams.
Apparently this is a project that would benefit not just the students but also Nigeria as a whole. Can you tell us how the nation stands to benefit from this whole idea?
The nation is going to gain a lot because this is going to expose these boys to playing football internationally. It’s going to help the youths to play structured games as well as take them off the streets through our youth empowerment programmes, grassroots development and all of that. And we can see that a lot of kids have the passion to play football but lack a platform with the kind of structure at FCBEscolaSoccer School, Lagos, that is going to help them grow as footballers from the little age of five. Most of the academies we have here have from the age of 15 and above but we are starting from age five because that is the best age to teach children about the value of unity, efforts, ambition and team work. I have a son here and I know he is really affected by the way he plays and the way he works. And a lot of children here have the values being taught to them through sports. This is a fun way of teaching people values rather than teaching in the classrooms. We put them in the pitch and they just play and become better people and that is what I can see happening here in the school. So the country can gain from that. We are going to expand our operations to accommodate more participants for more people to have a feel of what we do here. We are happy to be where we are now.
What does it take to be a student here?
All you have to do is just to pass a trial after which you become a student and that depends on the kind of training and programme you want to do.. It is as simple as that. Our target audience are kids, whether rich or poor, it does no matter because we also have a scholarship programme for ages five to 15 so it doesn’t really matter what your background is, you can still be part of the school. We are giving scholarship to close to a hundred students, which is quite a lot and we are trying to also make sure that they become role models for the rest of the schools.
How affordable are your fees?
We are the cheapest FCBEscola in the world because we charge one third of the fee that is charged globally. FCBEscola is like an elite school globally because as we know, FC Barcelona is an elite soccer club so the school too cannot be cheap but because of the economic situation in Nigeria, we have been able to give much better rate than anywhere in the world and even with that, we also put scholarship schemes on to help our kids grow. It is not about making money but developing the youths and that is much more important to us than any other thing and that is why we can put up scholarships for close to a hundred kids. My heart desire is to see children grow properly with the right values so that they can affect the economy positively. And soccer is a very good tool for training children in ways that they can become good adults. And if we have adults that have good values, the country would go a long way because a lot of things are going to be changed when you have citizens with good values.