Jamie Fullarton, a former English Premier League footballer and owner of Ackworth Football Academy, was in Kigali last weekend looking for outstanding young footballers who meet the standards required to get football scholarships at his academy.

The academy offers an elite football development programme for boys from three age groups namely U-19s, U-16s and U-13s.

The academy’s talent search started in Kenya and when Jamie was looking for someone to help him in talent pool exercise in Rwanda, former Amavubi Assistant Jimmy Mulisa’s name came up due to his growing dedication with football development from grassroots through his football academy ‘Umuri’.

Jamie, who previously played for Premier League sides Crystal Palace and Bolton Wanderers, said that he was glad to work with Mulisa after he learned that the former Rwanda international was already connected to the football development ecosystem through Umuri foundation.

“We have to thank Jimmy for my presence here. I was fortunate to link with Jimmy and he explained what he is doing with his foundation and that his ambition was to create opportunities for young aspiring footballers in Rwanda,” he said.

“I listened to his plans, his vision and mission and when the opportunity came within, I felt I would be part of his initiative and I jumped at the chance,” he said.

The former Crystal Palace player contacted Mulisa and explained his agenda to him that he wants some talented young footballers to give scholarships to further pursue their football career at his academy in England.

“I was so excited to read about Ackworth as a school whose vision is to give opportunities to young talented footballers ones and I am thankful they decided to come here. To have them here in Rwanda is a huge opportunity for our young boys in the area of education and at the same time growing as student athletes,” Mulisa told Times Sport in an interview.

Talent search opportunities by international elite football academies are rare in Rwanda something that has seen young footballers’ talent go to waste.

Mulisa said it was a big challenge that has been affecting Rwandan football and called on parents not to take the Ackworth initiative for granted.

“We have talent but exporting it remains a big challenge for our football. Having a complete football player who can study and play at the same time… only a few can do that,” he claimed.

“I am working with many parents and they have been asking how a child can excel both as a student and as a player. Some are willing to give the kids opportunities to study at elite schools where they can also develop their football talent,” he added.

The trials that he held over the weekend which attracted over 60 young players at IPRC-Kigali stadium, left Jamie impressed by some elements who could be offered scholarships as soon as they pass trials.

During the trials among kids between the age groups of 10 to 18 years, Jamie and team held training sessions to assess their pitch performance, attitude, their application, and determination.

“From what I have seen’ he said, “It was fantastic. All those reflect the approach of football and the response from the kids was magnificent.”

“My general impression is their ability with ball possession. Their ball manipulation is fantastic,” he added.

After Rwanda, the search for new talents targets Uganda and Ethiopia. Jamie and team are looking for 60 football talents in the region to enroll in his academy and Rwandans are likely to benefit from the initiative given how much Jamie was impressed by the talented young footballers displayed during Saturday’s trials.

In addition to the Academy’s home being at a brand-new 3G pitch, the facilities at Ackworth are outstanding; boasting five full-sized pitches, an all-weather pitch and an indoor training area.

Students enrolled in the football academy can also take full advantage of the heated indoor swimming pool and newly purpose-built fitness suite.

Places in the Academy will be limited and preference given to students already enrolled at Ackworth School.

The Elite Football
October 21, 2022