St. Patrick’s Athletic Football Club and Global Soccer Ventures (GSV) penned a three-year deal to create a feeder club system for Pakistan natives looking to break into professional European football.
This unique initiative by the Inchicore outfit will see former England international, Michael Owen act as the public Ambassador. Plus, will have the likes of Brian Kerr, Johnny McDonnell, Ger O’Brien and Jamie Moore travel to Pakistan, as part of the GSV ‘Next Gen Football Star’ trials.
Speaking on the venture, Brian Kerr said:
“When I first heard about this project through St Pat’s I was excited and eager to be involved. I have no doubt that there is a lot of untapped talent in Pakistan and we are hoping to find, nurture and develop that talent with a view to benefitting the players and ultimately the footballing nation of Pakistan.”
‘Next Gen Football Stars’
Members of the club’s UEFA Pro License coaching staff will also make the biannual visit, along with both Kerr and McDonnell, as they begin their hunt for Pakistan’s finest untapped playing and coaching talent.
The programme will begin with a train-the-trainer master-class, which will be developed and delivered by the St. Pat’s coaching staff.
Shortly thereafter, the Saints crew will travel to nine separate cities situated in the South Asia country. As they aim to scout the elite talent, under the watchful eye of, Michael Owen.
The journey will wrap up with 20 players, aged between 18 – 21 years old being provided the opportunity to travel to Dublin and be involved with the St. Patrick’s Athletic academy, and who knows, possibly break into the first team.
The open trials for this fantastic initiative will take place from the 17th of January, until the 2nd of February 2022.
This structured programme will be the first of its kind, creating a dedicated feeder system for international football players. With the overall goal to provide a nurturing atmosphere for Pakistan natives to make strides with clubs throughout Europe, while climatising to a European culture.
Despite the gargantuan population, Pakistan have never qualified, nor have they won a single match throughout any qualifying campaign for a World Cup competition.
In a similar ilk to highly populated India, the preference of other sports has hampered the success of football in Pakistan, which sees them currently occupy 198th in the highly criticised, FIFA World Rankings.
Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan has made it his vision to develop youth football from within. Now, with this ambitious partnership with St. Pat’s, and sports management agency GSV, could we be about to witness a change in fortune for Pakistani football?
Speaking on this, St. Pat’s Chairman, Garrett Kelleher said:
“The Prime Minister’s ambition to further develop football across the 5th most populous nation in the World is exciting. If St Patrick’s Athletic can in some way be a platform for this to happen and enable talented young footballers to achieve their dreams. It very much aligns with the club’s domestic aspiration. St Pat’s is privileged to have been retained by Pakistan to design a program with Red Strike and GSV to develop players further and potentially explore pro-contract opportunities.”
Benefits For Super Saints
While this story has seemingly come out of nowhere, and seems quite bizarre on the surface. There’s potential for St. Pat’s to positively benefit from their involvement with the programme.
As always, these out of the box ideas tend to attract positive media exposure at home, and abroad. Which is constantly sought after at League of Ireland level.
More importantly, Pat’s could be the benefactors of a hidden gem that may come out of the Pakistan football system.
Kerr, McDonnell and the coaching staff will be keen to cherry-pick any talent they feel could strength the academy squad. And potentially, make their mark on the SSE Airtricity Premier Division.
You’ll have copious amounts of young footballers looking for a pathway into Europe. And this is something that could filter into the matchday experience at Richmond Park.
As Ireland continues to diversify, having someone from Pakistan don the famous red shirt could entice a surge of new Pakistani folks living in Ireland through the turnstiles. As they could have somebody they identify with in the league.
Of course, this is all hypothetically speaking. Many will be quick to point out the woeful standard of football across Pakistan.
However, Pat’s will be ecstatic to discover a diamond in the obscure rough. In a similar vain to their former Ugandan superstar, Charles Livingstone Mbabazi, as they look to enter a completely untapped market.
As always, these intriguing stories will attract doubters due to the unknown nature of this news.
Mainly, the apparent disrespect towards current St. Patrick’s Athletic underage stars, and young talent throughout Dublin as a whole seems to be a strong sticking point.
Should We Look After Our Own?
The Dublin 8 side is home to one of the most successful youth academies in the country, in terms of mass-producing players for the League of Ireland and abroad, along with underage silverware in recent years.
Of course, this couldn’t be possible without their long-standing strong connections with elite amateur sides like Cherry Orchard Football Club, Crumlin United and Belvedere United.
The argument that those involved with the nine-time league champions are ignoring local talent within their community is preposterous.
All over the footballing world, clubs are sourcing young players throughout the globe. Ireland should be no different when it comes to widening their search for potential underage talent.
We’d all rightfully champion an Irish prospect going to any academy across Europe, and never give a second thought about the players in their local community that could be without a spot.
St. Pat’s making trips to Pakistan twice a year, to try educate and engage with local coaches. Along with scouting idle talent isn’t a threat to the long-term future of their academy, or Irish football overall.
Some of the finest Irish talent will continue to ply their trade in Inchicore. Offering two or three lads from Pakistan a contract isn’t signalling an overhaul to the way things are done within the League of Ireland.