UNITED States-based former Warriors forward Patrick Daka may not have featured for any global football giants during his playing career, but a fortnight ago he had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit and learn at English top club Arsenal Academy.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
The Karoi-born former Darryn T and Amazulu star was part of a group of coaches teaching football “The Arsenal Way” in the US who made the Puma-sponsored trip.
Daka first played football overseas in Germany for two seasons from 1995, but it was in the US where he made a name for himself playing for Corban University tearing the record books, scoring 106 goals and dishing out 48 assists — the highest all-time scores at the university.
He also led Charlotte Eagles to the United Soccer League (USL) PRO Championship four times in his seven-year professional career.
But out of all his football experiences, the 42-year-old Charlotte Soccer Academy’s club technical director in charge of coaches’ education and player development ranks the visit to Arsenal as his best.
“There are many things I never thought I would be able to do or even thought of doing. This is one of them. Since finishing school in 1992, I have played in Europe and the USA. I kept pursuing my football and it led me to numerous parts of the world. Being at Arsenal, though, on an educational visit, tops all that,” he told The Sports Hub from his US base.
“It was an exciting week. Having access to their youth programme is not an everyday experience. When the opportunity came up through our club’s relationship with Puma, I knew it was one to grab. Puma facilitated the trip as part of its sponsorship package for our club.
“I was part of a group of coaches from various clubs in the US who have been running a programme to train young American players ‘The Arsenal Way’ and help identify the best young players who would then visit Arsenal for a week of training at Arsenal’s youth academy.
“The target age group was all players born in 2005. At Arsenal, academy coaches trained our players and then our group against their Arsenal U13 team. It was a fascinating game which our players did very well to win 6-3 against a superbly talented and trained Arsenal team,” Daka revealed.
What made the trip more memorable is the fact Daka is an Arsenal fan.
In fact, his used to back Liverpool when he was much younger, but he jumped ship when Frenchman Arsene Wenger took over at the London club.
“Interestingly, I am a Gunner. I am a fan of Arsenal, but I have not always been. I used to be a Liverpool fan during the John Barnes and Bruce Grobbelaar days, but I became intrigued by Arsene Wenger’s approach when he took over. He made me a believer in ‘The Arsenal Way’ of playing football,” he chuckled.
Despite not meeting any of the Arsenal legends past or present, Daka was thrilled at the opportunity to learn at one of the best football academies in the world.
He shares some of the nuggets he learnt on the trip.
“I learnt there is logic to the madness. Training players should be future-looking. All Arsenal does is to prepare players to play in the first team the Arsenal way and right from Under-9s to Under-19s, they play the same style built on the same pillars and fundamentals.
“They prepare players in all areas of the game and also in their personal and academic lives. They have physicians and tutors on-site to work with players. During practice, their training is reality-based. All their activities are future-looking.
“In other words, they teach players to focus on the next play, which then determines their technical execution and movement based on certain triggers. I can write an entire thesis on this,” he said.
Daka runs soccer camps for schools, clubs, and underprivileged kids in rural areas in Zimbabwe.
He is also working with fantastic people at Chitungwiza’s Dreamers Academy run by former CAPS United player Charles Manjera.
Daka wants to one day come back and contribute to Zimbabwean football in a big way.
“The goal is to get myself as fully educated and licensed in the game as possible. If the right opportunity in Zimbabwe avails itself along the way and it aligns with my dreams, philosophies and values, then I will give it some serious consideration,” he said.