Friday, November 17, 2006

Blackburn's Friedel builds innovative USA academy

Brad Friedel, the veteran Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper is building a £4.2 million football academy that will carry his name and promises to revolutionise the sport back home in the USA and he is keen to give under-privileged youngsters there the opportunities in the game that they would otherwise miss out on. The plan is to provide the USA's first free year-round residential football school - which will also be a base to young players recruited from around the world - and will fund their development with scholarships.

Some familiar names from the English Premier League in the shape of Barry Venison and Scott Sellars are on board as directors of the project. And following five years of planning the state-of-the-art facility in Cleveland, Ohio, where Friedel grew up, will be ready in August 2007.

"Anyone who generally goes over to America to do this sort of thing goes to take money off people. We have done it in a different way and gone for Federal, State, local grants and gained sponsorship so we can go out to get the top young athletes and train them as academies do around the world. It will be predominantly for Americans but we have scouting networks all over the world and the mix will be about 60-40. Football in America is a mid to upper-class sport and I want to change that," Friedel told Chris Bevan of BBC Sport.

Friedel has been running summer soccer schools in America since 2003 but a year-round academy was always his ultimate aim. He has taken a hands-on approach in the camps he has run before but is still completing his coaching badges - as well as turning out for Rovers - and does not feel qualified to do the same when the academy opens its doors.

"This isn't just a run of the mill camp set-up where you pay your money and you get in," he explained. "These are elite players we are talking about and they need to be coached in the correct manner. I think one of the most difficult areas of coaching is in youth development. I have hired three coaches that are going to be there on a full-time basis that have between eight and 25 years experience of coaching and development."

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