Former Portuguese player in Namibia for youth football development

SKILLS … Julio Lourenço shares knowledge with players at DS Football Academy during training in Windhoek. Photo: Ester Mbathera

Seasoned Portuguese football player Julio Lourenço will be in Namibia for more than six months to help nurture young talent and establish a sustainable football ecosystem.

Lourenço is in Namibia at the invitation of fellow football enthusiast and former national team player Dokkies Schmidt.

Lourenço says he and Schmidt engaged in discussions two years ago about the possibility of creating a football academy that would provide equal opportunities for aspiring players in Namibia.

This led to the establishment of DS Football Academy in 2023.

“I spoke with Dokkies two years ago about the possibility for me to come to Namibia and help him to create a football academy that will give a fair chance to all the boys to have a platform to start playing football and from there develop their qualities and try to achieve the top,” he says.

Lourenço says the challenges facing football development in Namibia are multifaceted, ranging from inadequate facilities to social and economic barriers.

He recognises these, having witnessed similar struggles during his tenure in South Africa at KZN Football Academy.

However, his optimism remains unshaken as he aims to bridge the gap and empower young players with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the sport.

“I’m here to try to close that gap, teach them a little bit how to organise an academy, and how to create that road for the players to grow in football. And later, when they achieve the age of 14, 15, 16, they have that kind of conditions and knowledge on the game to dream of playing as a professional one day,” he says.

Lourenço’s says his mission is the establishment of a robust youth development programme to lay the fountation for a future where Namibian players can thrive on the international stage.

He further points out the significant gap between Namibian football and that of other countries, and stresses the need to close this disparity through strategic development programmes.

He criticises the lack of a robust youth development pathway in Namibia, noting the absence of a second line of players for the national team

“I don’t see a youth development programme in Namibia to bring and develop players for the national team. Every year you delay that programme, it’s one generation you lose. That is the thing people need to understand. The sooner you start that programme, the sooner you start investing in youth development, the sooner you can get players to compete at international level and for your national team,” he says.

Schmidt, who is the driving force behind DS Football Academy, says the reform of football in the country is urgent.

He also underscores the importance of identifying and nurturing talent from an early age.

“The country does not have a structure for those under 15, 17, 19, 21 and 23. These players need to go through those stages for development purposes And that gives you under 19, they give you an idea of your national team players. If you look at it, the current national team is actually growing old as most of them are in their 30s,” he says.

Schmidt further questions how an under-17 team was called up last week, when the league just started.

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