Real Racing Club have landed in Nigeria with the aim of expanding the institution’s international presence. Thanks to an agreement established earlier this year with the Derby Football Academy, the club from Santander in the Spanish region of Cantabria have already begun to roll out its youth football methodology in the country, showing the young players and the coaches how to work with this particular philosophy.
This partnership with the Derby Football Academy will give young Nigerian talents the chance to try their luck in the youth ranks of the Cantabrian club and it will also facilitate coaching exchange programmes. Jorge Polvorinos, the Head of Methodology at Real Racing Club, explained: “The collaboration is focused first and foremost on developing and establishing this specific agreement, but the door is always open to further expansion and growth, either with local federations or with neighbouring countries.”
The alliance with Derby Football Academy came about as a result of Polvorinos’ experience, as he was working with the African academy in 2019. During that year, he had the chance to act as technical director and coach of the U-20 side. He remembers it as an experience with mixed emotions, revealing: “It helped me to see first-hand the high level of football of the country’s young players and, unfortunately, it also showed me the lack of opportunities that exist to develop such talent.”
Polvorinos then joined Real Racing Club in the 2021/22 season and made a proposal to César Anievas, the Director of the Foundation, and to Gonzalo Colsa, the Coordinator of the Youth Categories, suggesting that the club could contact the Derby Football Academy to explore the possibility of a cooperation agreement that would help develop and recruit local talent. The Head of Methodology recalled: “The process was quick, thanks to the predisposition of both parties, and the agreement was closed in March of 2022 when the CEO of Derby Football Academy, Eleo Faddoul, visited our facilities.”
The objectives of the agreement are centred around three main aspects: one is to develop clinics in Santander, through the Foundation, for players from the academy who are between the ages of eight and 17; another is to offer training and methodological advice to the local coaches; and the third is to discover local talent and open up the option for the best players to be incorporated into Real Racing Club.
At the Santander-based club, there is a believe that “in Nigeria there is a perfect combination of the three key conditions” needed for this type of cooperation: local talent, opportunities for expansion and connection with the club.
Regarding Nigeria’s level of footballing talent, Polvorinos commented: “This is a country that, despite a lack of both human and material resources, still manages to export players year after year. You only have to look at the national team’s squad list to see that practically all the players turn out for European teams, some of them at the very top level.”
He continued: “Having a partner on the ground, one like Derby Football Academy, allows us to not only access the recruitment of local talent but also to be able to implement our own methodology to help develop it in accordance with our philosophy. With a strong and well-established local partner, we can ensure that this type of project makes an impact in the region and that the project has room for growth.”
Historically, there are several ways in which the Spanish club has been connected with Nigeria. One is that Emmanuel Amunike, a coach with the Nigeria national team, lives in Cantabria and his son is in the Real Racing Club youth academy. In addition, there is a Nigerian player in the Real Racing Club first team in the form of Cedric Omoigui, while a former fan favourite from the 1990s was Nigeria international Mutiu Adepoju, who also played for Real Sociedad.
This is a club that is keen to grow in all aspects, so those in charge believe it is important for the various departments of the youth academy to carry out development work beyond the local sporting complex. As the club concluded: “We firmly believe that sharing our working methods in other contexts and realities will help us to not only increase our visibility, thereby making our club better known in other territories, but also to test and improve ourselves by analysing how our methodologies function, seeing what works best and what the players demand depending on their background, culture, etc.”