With its reputation of turning out a number of players for the first XI of Barcelona FC and even the Spanish national team, there is good reason to consider La Masia one of the premier football schools of the world. The school is both revered and envied by most in the footballing world. However there is one academy in the world that rivals Barcelona in producing a truly staggering number of top-class players, and that is Sol Beni.
Sol Beni is the footballing academy of Asec Mimosas FC, a club based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. “I think that the success of the Elephants, it all comes down to the training policy put in place in the early 1990s by Asec. At the time it wasn’t the normal thing to do. Asec created the first real football school”, Ivorian team captain Didier Drogba once said in an interview. Sven Goran Ericson described it as “a quarry of the most successful.” Drogba, who migrated to France when he was five, himself never went to Sol Beni. But many others have. Nine out of Ivory Coast’s 28-man preliminary squad for the 2014 World Cup —– nearly a third of the total strength — learned their skills at Sol Beni. These include Yaya and Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou and Gervinho. Two thirds of Ivory Coast’s 2006 World cup finals squad had come through the doors of Asec’s Sol Beni academy, founded in 1994. At the 2010 World Cup, 11 of the 21 man squad had passed out of Sol Beni.
Sol Beni has even had an impact in how the national team plays. The goal is to attack constantly. Players dribble not just to score but simply because they enjoy it. Indeed The motto of the academy, written above the training pitch is ‘Les enfants s’amusent’ which translates as ‘the children have fun’.