Why do many African players struggle in Europe?
Throughout the week, we got asked multiple times why there were no Ugandan players in Europe’s top leagues. Uganda has a population of 45 million, with 77% of its population being under the age of 25. With such a large talent pool, you’d expect at least some to break through.
Players from the nearby Rays of Grace football academy were part of the practical sessions. Based on what we saw during the training course, it was not a lack of talent, technique, or football know-how. We were highly impressed by the technical level of these talents. Also, during the training sessions, it was clear that many of the coaches had a high level of football knowledge and came up with advanced training exercises and coaching techniques.
However, we did feel that the educational culture was in the way. We noticed a lot of ‘joystick coaching,’ a style of coaching in which the coach micromanages the players. Overall, the conviction was that players need the coach to guide them, otherwise, they are helpless. But when you take this approach, you will not teach them to become problem-solvers.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” A famous quote from Mike Tyson. Our takeaway was that for Ugandan players to thrive in Europe, they must be stimulated to take the initiative and operate independently of external supervision. They should be allowed to make mistakes and deal with setbacks themselves to become problem-solvers on and off the pitch.