How Tech-Enabled Talent Identification Can Spur Africa’s Talent Scouting

The recently concluded 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will go down in history as one of the most exciting and best-organized AFCONs on and off the pitch. It is not without cause if data from OptaAnalyst is to go by. With late goals beyond the ninetieth-minute mark keeping fans on the edge of their seats, OptaAnalyst recorded over 13 goals scored in the group stages alone. The last time the championship came close to such figures was in 2013, with nine. With stars of yester-year like Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto and Jay-Jay Okocha watching from the stands, it was the emerging talent of the likes of Victor Osimhen that lit the stage. With a pass success of over 600 in the group stages, this was a first in the history of AFCON. This was further augmented by a pass accuracy rate of over 81%, an increase of 3.05% since the last AFCON (OptaAnalyst).


Talent Scouting for National Teams

One of the most interesting figures that could be noticed by those who have a discerning eye is the increase in players born outside of Africa taking part in this AFCON. Of the 600 players registered to participate, almost 32% were born outside Africa. Most notable is Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly, hoping to repeat the success of 2021 and lift the AFCON trophy again. Critics of national team managers and scouts looking to the second-generation African diaspora to take up places argue that this gives African countries an easy way out of not investing in local talent identification. This is in pursuit of a fast-track strategy to success that can erode football’s long-term health across the continent.

However, on the other side, this AFCON has also seen stars discovered as hidden gems while playing on the continent. Notable of these are the ex-Liverpool teammate duo of Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah. The former drew the attention of French Club FC Metz while playing in Senegal with Generation Foot Academy. On the other hand, Salah’s dazzling movement with the ball during the 2011 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations caught the eye of a local young scout. At the time Salah had just broken through the first team of the Egyptian side, El Mokawloon, having joined its youth team at 14 years old.

Nuanced Approach to African Talent Scouting

While the stories of Mane and Salah continue to give hope to rising stars across Africa’s youth academies, it is perhaps its nuanced approach and subtleties that also raise challenges in defining definitive talent identification processes. When this is translated to the international footballing landscape, this nuanced approach to African scouting creates a hurdle for young African stars to be scouted by teams in top leagues such as those in Europe. It requires these European clubs to have scouts on the ground, an endeavour that can be resource-consuming not least unscalable for them. This is because the use of video and data to augment talent identification is not as prevalent in Africa as it is in Europe. It leaves most buying clubs relying on connections operating in Africa who feed them with prospective talent in a somewhat subjective approach.

Tech-enabled Talent Identification

With access to sports technology becoming more affordable, tech-enabled talent identification and scouting in Africa could be a game changer. Adopting hardware and software to maximise talent identification should be seamless for those academies playing regularly in organised leagues in top African footballing nations such as South Africa, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt etc. For those who are starting from scratch, it is the availability of such tools that gives them hope that a starting path with an end-to-end solution is achievable when it comes to adopting a tech-enabled approach to talent development. The advancement in off-the-shelf 4K video cameras and products by companies like Veo and Pixellot that cater for football match recording, provides the first step into regular and more manageable video capturing.

While the availability of video ensures that every match and player is captured, it is the introduction of more comprehensive professional player-focused data analytics that makes the whole endeavour worthwhile for academies and leagues. AI platforms such as TALNETS use the captured video to provide a more granular analysis of players based on events and highlights identified from the game. This means coaches and scouts don’t have to spend a lot of time going over match footage to identify talent. With the AI doing the heavy lifting, it augments their expertise and provides a less subjective assessment of potential talent.

Through the power of data analytics and AI we’re democratising talent scouting and showcasing it to the world. To learn more about TALNETS and how we’re partnering with clubs, academies and leagues in regions where talent identification is underrepresented GET IN TOUCH.


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