Gambian international player launches Soccer Academy in the US

Aug 18, 2020, 12:53 PM | Article By: Mahamadou Camara, Point’s Foreign Correspondent

Gambia international defender and new Portland Timbers FC recruit Futty Danso has recently launched a soccer academy in the United States of America.

The Star defender – who was born and raised in The Gambia now lives in Portland, Oregon– has launched the Futty98 Soccer Training, a football academy geared towards the development of upcoming talents and improving grassroots opportunities for both boys and girls around the Portland metro area.

In an interview with The Point over the weekend, Danso expressed delight and gratitude that the project had finally seen the light of day.

“I have been working on it for a while now and trying to get it started. Thank Allah that it finally got off and us rolling now. I’m starting the training program for kids and teenagers that are looking to develop their soccer skills and talents to the next level of desire,” he said.

Danso’s popularity as a player in the MLS, coupled with his strong connection to Portland and good relationship with coaches as well as fellow athletes, made it easy for him to team up with other professionals who have been assisting him towards the day-to-day running of the academy.

 “Although the project was set up by just me, I’m working with three other professionals that are now retired. I played with two of them but knew the third partner from playing against him. I’m hoping to work with other good coaches around the area,” the Gambian international said.

The sporting venture is not the first of its kind established by a Gambian player in the US, as former Gambian Centre-back Ebrima Jatta commonly known as EJ has also been running a similar successful venture in the Seattle area for more than ten years.

“I got a lot of advice from Ebrima Jatta as he is doing similar stuff down in Seattle and he is a great guy to get advice from. He has been helpful with the set-up and little detailing of how it works, ”Danso said, adding that he hopes to expand to other areas beyond the city of Portland in the near future.

In 2017/18, Danso obtained his coaching license (B) from the prestigious United States Soccer Federation, USSF and is currently undergoing training for his final license(A).

The Futty98 Soccer academy works with all age groups and part of their objectives include aiding teenagers looking to go pro or play in college soccer teams in the US.

“As college is a big deal in America. If you are good enough, scholarship is awarded to players to attend university for less or free. This project is aid to help develop kids and teenagers that are looking to go pro or play in college. As long as the client can kick a soccer ball, we would put in the effort to get them better and moving forward,” the former Montreal Impact Defender said.

The first trainees enrolled at Futty98 Soccer training – who hail from different backgrounds and age groups – are already experiencing the full range of benefits the unique academy has to offer with Danso’s vast experience as a player in the highest level and connections to the world of professional football making the academy the most ideal pathway for soccer learners.

The Former Kelantan FA defender heaped praises on Qcity and other teams in the Gambia for setting up projects and structures to pave the way for establishments “along the lines of developing players and putting them in a professional setup”.

He called on The Gambia Football Federation and Ministry of Youth and Sports to initiate similar projects to nurture grassroots football in the country.

“Maybe one day this would be a perfect project for the Gambian football federation and ministry of sports to look into, and start teaching the grassroots level, the necessary skills and techniques that would carry Gambia to a level higher than we are in football,” he said, suggesting that he would be willing to work with ex and current Gambian players to help, promote and contribute their own quota towards the development of all sports in general, in the country.

According to him, most Gambian pro players never had the chance to join the academy system with proper training facilities and well-trained coaches who are experts on developing players at an early stage.

“But yet still we produce players in the top5 leagues around the world,” he added.

The newly acquired Portland Timbers FC defender said he is still open to represent the national team of the Gambia whenever his services are called upon.

“I’m still part of the set-up of the national team. Whenever my service is needed I would gladly and proudly serve my nation. I’m also a huge supporter of Gambia football not just a player. At the end it’s about winning games and making it to a tournament as a nation not just a team. I think every Gambian (both players and supporter) are still hoping to see the nation make it to a tournament. We are starving for that first tournament. That is in the horizon for Gambia!”

The 37-year-old defender revealed that he will likely not pursue a differing career following his retirement as he will focus more on growing his sporting venture in the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon.

Danso ascribed his special relationship and strong emotional attachment to Portland Timbers FC and the city as down to the fact that it is the same place where he made his professional debut in 2009 and played over three and a half seasons “the majority of my career” there before he was traded to Montreal Impact in 2014.

“It’s a team I made my legacy with and I have a great relationship with Portland Timbers and that is something both parties are grateful for. I played the majority of my career as a professional here in Portland and I connect well with the city and locals. They took me as one of their own and I embraced the team and city as well. So, I got a lot of support and help from the community,” he said, adding that he is well-known, respected and celebrated throughout the city.

The MLS club on Friday officially announced the return of the Gambian defender - once hailed by Timbers Portland fans as “The Great Wall of Gambia”- for a second spell at the club where he started his professional career.

“People are excited that I’m back with the team and I have been getting a lot of support from the fans.  I have done my fair share for this city and they make me know that I’m still and will always be welcomed here,” he stated.