ACADEMY VIEW: MONROVIA FOOTBALL ACADEMY Follow on Twitter
On a sunny morning in June, Blessing Nagbe, Simeon Quaye, and Prince Toe sit on the steps next to the football pitch, waiting patiently for the start of the school day. At the age of 12, 11, and 8, respectively, these three boys and girls represent some of the most impressive football talent at Monrovia Football Academy.
The clock strikes 9:30am and our Co-Founder & Director of Football, Sekou Dgeorges Manubah, addresses the class.
47 boys and girls assume their seats, notes in hand, eyes fixed on their coach. Blessing, Simeon, and Prince sit side-by-side, focused, eager to learn. It’s time for football class.
The Academy’s Football Program
Monrovia Football Academy holds football training from 9:30-11:30am, Monday-Thursday. The first 30 minutes of training occurs off the pitch – in an informal classroom setting – giving our student-athletes the opportunity to review the theory, concepts, and techniques they will practice once they step onto the pitch.
From 10-11:30am, our students break into teams based on age and skill level. The first team is typically led by Manubah. This year, the second and third teams will be managed by two former women’s national team players, Florence Monboe and Naomi Peters, and a fourth coach yet to be hired.
The Academy’s football program is streamlined, efficient, and effective. Our football curriculum emphasizes technical ability, creativity, and grit – three qualities required to succeed in every football system around the world. All coaches are accredited by the Liberia Football Association and hold Fifa-level coaching licenses.
We are the only youth football program in Liberia that strongly emphasizes female football. Our girls compete with our boys, and will continue to do so until they reach the age of 14. Three girls – including the aforementioned Blessing Nagbe – currently start in our first team. Lineup decisions are made based on merit, not gender.
Emphasis on the Mind
At the core of our football curriculum is our belief that football is a thinking game. A quote from a Roman poet, Virgil, motivates this emphasis on the mind: Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas (Fortunate is he who can understand the causes of things).
This profound quote highlights the importance of anticipation, comprehension, and action. To understand the causes of things, in football, is to see the next two, three, or four moves before they happen; to dissect the opponent and identify its weaknesses; to know when and where to attack. While sound technique, tactics, and fitness are fundamental to any footballer’s success, the ability to think the game at a high level is what separates the world’s greatest footballers.
Football Should be Fun!
Beyond the technical elements of our football program, we also make sure our student-athletes have fun! The common denominator for all footballers – from Lionel Messi to the six-year-old playing recreationally – is that they enjoy their time on the pitch.
For many, the football pitch is an oasis. No matter the circumstances of one’s life, we all find peace and happiness when we step onto the pitch.
This is fundamentally important. In every session, we give our student-athletes the opportunity to relax, unwind, and experience true happiness and joy on the pitch. As a result, they never, ever want to stop playing.
On that June day, a few hours after football training, we finish a meeting in our academic facilities during recess. We hear a set of animated voices one level below and head downstairs to observe. Blessing, Simeon, and Prince are among their friends, sweating straight through their school uniforms, playing a game of possession with a soda cap.
“What’s going on here?” we ask.
In unison, they respond “we playing!!”
We smile. “Alright then, play on.”