Westerlo continues to sparkle
Plucked from obscurity into one of Europe’s best youth development centres, Bright Edomwonyi, is the latest Nigerian graduate to emerge
from KVC Westerlo, the Belgian side, which have a nursery, KVC Westerlo
Football Academy, in Lagos, Nigeria.
Edomwonyi, 18, has since headed for Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg to begin a professional career after a brilliant campaign in Belgium’s reserve league.
For Edomwonyi, it has been a meteoric rise, but one he thoroughly
deserves - as he has taken his chances.
Schooled by one of the best in the business, the Nigerian is a
diamond for the future.
The academy, based in Lagos and managed by former Nigerian
International goalkeeper, Dosu Joseph, is the conveyor belt that
ensured Edomwonyi and others are prepared for life in Europe.
Back in 1996, Dosu, who played club football for Julius Berger, in
Nigeria and Reggiana, in Italy, was in goal when Nigerian won the gold
medal in football at the Atlanta Olympics, but his career was cut
short two years after.
The former goalkeeper has put that incident aside and now spends
quality time giving hope for a future to the next generation of players.
Before the youngster turned 18, the former goalkeeper told
supersport.com that Edomwonyi is blessed with a footballing brain to be the next big star.
“Edomwonyi started in the academy like the other boys on the field and left for Belgium to play in the reserve league, where he excelled.
“We have a culture of excellence and the players remain committed.
Edomwonyi is an example of the quality of players we produce,” Dosu
said to supersport.com.
Relegated at the end of the season in Belgium, Westerloo is set to
hand a professional contract to Ibrahim Attah, who is now the only
Nigerian at the academy.
Barcelona’s La Masia might boast of the best youth project based
on the number of players who have passed through the school to attain
greatness in football, but a look at the Westerlo Academy, in Nigeria, confirms the fact that the former international goalkeeper, has a
conveyor belt that never runs short of talented youngsters.
KVC Westerlo Nigeria
The academy is fashioned as a platform that prepares youngsters
for a career in the reserve team of the parent side in Belgium. However, a few have found their way straight into the first team.
Younger players compete in the reserve league and within a short time are promoted to the first team of Westerloo.
For those who are still young, they have to wait till 18 before
signing a professional contract as stipulated by Belgian laws.
Asked how he scouts and prepares the youngsters to understand the rigours of life in a foreign land, Dosu replied: “I played the game to the highest level, so I know what to look out for.
“We play friendly matches against other clubs and I have a scout
in the north, who looks for what I want in neighbourhood fields,” he told
Excitement in Red Bull
Edomwonyi’s arrival in Red Bull is already generating excitement and he becomes the second Nigerian after Rabiu Afolabi to play for the club.
Red Bull’s Sporting Director, Ralf Rangnick, sees the signing of the young Nigerian as another investment in the future.
“Edomwonyi is a lightning-quick, technically accomplished and threatening attacking all-rounder. He is a huge talent at just 18 years old and fits our requirements perfectly,” he told the club website.
Boys to Men
Dosu remains passionate about his pet project which is positioned as a solution to the challenges of age grade football in the country.
Interestingly, most of his graduates have excelled at the national camp.
Emmanuel Sarki, Moses Adams, Olufemi Oladapo, Dele Adeleye and
Rafael Ademola have played for Nigeria at diffrent levels.
However, Adeleye remains the only player to have represented
Nigeria at Under20, Under23 and the Super Eagles.
Jamiu Alimi narrowly missed the Fifa Under20 World Cup in 2011, while Taofeek Aleji and Peter Unwora (both based in Spain) are yet to represent Nigeria.
With Nigeria preparing the Under20 team for another continental
assignment, testimonial from Dosu and Rangnick should be enough for
John Obuh and his assistants to give the Red Bull youngster a chance.