Celta Vigo’s exciting academy blueprint concludes LaLiga and COSAFA masterclasses

Spain’s LaLiga has concluded its Masterclass sessions with some of COSAFA’s top professional and grassroots coaches with a fascinating insight into Real Club Celta de Vigo’s world-renowned academy programme.

Southern African football fans were first introduced to Celta Vigo when a young Benni McCarthy signed for the club in LaLiga in 1999.

Celta Vigo have been raising eyebrows globally recently with their hugely successful academy programme, which saw the club’s former academy players playing the greatest number of top-flight minutes of any club in the world’s top 10 leagues this season.

This season 13 of Vigo’s former academy players featured in 49% of the minutes in LaLiga’s 2020/21 season, playing in 34 matches to date as the club competes for Europa League qualification.

The Co-Ordinator of Celta Vigo’s International Academy Programme, Marcos Alonso, and Adrian Abalo, the Head of Celta Vigo’s Methodology Department, gave the COSAFA coaches detailed insight into Vigo’s approach in honing the talents of the club’s young players.

The virtual workshop was attended by some of Southern Africa’s leading coaches and football figures, among them Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis, current Zimbabwe national women’s team coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda, former Namibia national women’s coach Jacqui Shipanga, as well as former Bafana Bafana striker George Dearnaley and former SAFA Technical Director for Women’s Football Fran Hilton Smith.

The workshops are another step forward in a strong partnership between LaLiga and COSAFA, which saw 70 grassroots coaches and 14 professional coaches benefit from the expertise of LaLiga and its clubs in four Masterclass sessions over the last month.

Celta Vigo’s academy programme has now stretched into Romania, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and the United States and in 2020 the World Football Summit awarded Vigo the prize of having world football’s best international strategy.

Alonso and Abalo were proud of Celta Vigo graduates such as current star Iago Aspas, Leeds United’s Rodrigo Moreno and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Jonny Castro Otto who have all represented the current generation of the Spain national team in recent years.

“The LaLiga Masterclasses have been very insightful and informative. LaLiga’s coaches are very meticulous and detail oriented. They follow proper processes in developing their players and the lesson for us is that if you take shortcuts in developing players you won’t reach your objectives. We at COSAFA may not have the resources LaLiga and its clubs have, but we have to start somewhere, and the sessions have given us plenty of good ideas and shown us what is possible if we approach development properly,” says Banyana coach Ellis.

Dearnaley, a former Bafana and AmaZulu striker now heavily involved in development coaching across Africa, enjoyed the LaLiga sessions and was impressed by how much thought, organisation and planning goes into every element of the league’s football vision.

“From the theory, the philosophy of the game, the game model, development programs, to the culture and environment they want to instil in their players – from youth all the way to the top professional levels – these are all things that I dream about doing with our own development programs in South Africa. What always come across from everyone at La Liga and their clubs is the passion, the enthusiasm and dedication for the game. No matter how much football I have played, or watched, and in my 20 years of development coaching, there is always something to learn from these great Spanish football clubs.  I am really enjoying the education,” says Dearnaley.

Marcos Pelegrin, LaLiga Southern Africa Managing Director, said the workshops further strengthened and cemented the relationship between LaLiga and COSAFA.

“We have moved from words to action and started sharing real tangible insights from LaLiga and its clubs with COSAFA’s coaches and structures. Our exciting partnership is getting stronger, and we look forward to continuing to make a tangible impact in supporting African football development. We hope COSAFA associations and clubs will be able to implement some of the new ideas and concepts from the Masterclasses, both in amateur and professional football, and remain on hand to support them,” says Pelegrin.