Uganda made their bow at the U17 Total Africa Cup of Nations in Tanzania under the watch of Ghana-born trainer Samuel Kwesi Fabin. However, the Cubs as the Ugandans are nicknamed crashed out at the group stage, but Fabin is already counting the benefits of the experience.
The renowned talent-spotter sat down with CAFOnline.com for an interview on the exploits of his team amongst others. Below are excerpts.
CAFOnline.com: What are your impressions of the Total U-17 Africa Cup of Nations underway?
Samuel Kwesi Fabin: It has been amazing. We (Uganda) started the game and it’s unfortunate we couldn’t go beyond the group stage. In our match against Nigeria, we had chances to beat Nigeria but we didn’t capitalize on them. We took advantage of the lack of concentration in their defense to score the opener but we couldn’t defend it. I think among other teams, Nigeria is the best and they can win the trophy.
A number of talents have emerged. I can single out Akinkunmi Amoo from Nigeria, Zito Luvumbo from Angola and Gavin Kizito from my team. The challenge ahead is that we need to monitor them and help them to thrive to the higher level. We need to develop them.
What was motivation for accepting the Uganda few weeks to the tournament?
My ambition is to develop these players. At this level, winning trophies is not the priority; however sometimes there are pressures from external sources and diverts the real objectives. At this level we need to groom talents and develop them.
I want to improve the system of scouting talents in Uganda. I want us to get best talents and put them together, to monitor and develop them. I am ready to give my best to Uganda and I believe it will work out.
How crucial is the U17 AFCON to the development of players and African football in general?
It is very positive. It helps a lot in grooming new talents every time. The introduction of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was a perfect idea, now youngsters of the same age play together. It gives these young players a platform to showcase their talents and compete at the top level with their compatriots from other countries. The idea of zonal qualifiers is very good also. However, I think there tournament needs more innovations. I would recommend an increase to 16 teams from the current eight. These boys need to play more competitive games.
You achieved a lot with Ghana U17 team, what are secrets behind these achievements?
In Ghana, it’s a bit easy to work at this level. The players are self-motivated and focused. They see football as a good way of taking them out of poverty. There are a lot of football academies with structured youth leagues starting for 12-year olds and above, so it makes things a bit easier.
Why have you chosen to devote a greater part of your career to training youth?
Not all! It depends on the demand. For now, I am with Uganda but things can change. I enjoy working on these youth projects because this is where football begins. You need to polish these youngsters to become good players in the future. They have to be able to play at a higher level. Working with youngsters is sometimes a big challenge. You must know that these are kids so they will do mistakes a lot.
There is usually no recognition at this level. You might do wonders but the appreciation and recognition is minimal contrary to the senior teams. The Member Associations tend to focus much on the senior teams and forget about those at the grassroots level. There is big wage difference among senior team coaches and the youth, it doesn’t help.