It has served and continues to serve as a breeding ground for nurturing talent on the island, particularly in Roseau and environs. A number of current national players at all levels have horned their skills at this institution. The idea was conceptualized almost 30 years ago following a trip abroad by its founder.
The Newtown Juvenile Football Academy, which currently has an enrolment of 80 young boys and girls between the ages of 5-16, is by far the most organized and well structured of all football academies this country has seen over the last four or five decades.
Joffre Faustin, the founding member of the NJFA, after returning to the island from a coaching course abroad in the early 1990’s immediately set the wheels in motion for the establishment of the football academy. Twenty-seven years ago, on 3rd April 1993, the NJFA was birthed at the Newtown Savannah in the presence of then Sports Minister, Rupert Sorhaindo, and others, who witnessed the launching.
The responsibilities of ensuring the early success of the NJFA rested on the shoulders of its founder, Joffre Faustin along with Clem John, Burl Julien, Oliver Grell, Dr. Francis Grell (deceased), Ronald Lander and coaches Don Leogal and Jerry Coipel. These esteemed gentlemen because of their courage and zeal, were able to lay a strong foundation for continued success.
Don Leogal, who is presently the main driving force behind the survival of the NJFA recalls the early days.
“The idea came to Mr. Faustin while attending a coaching course in Europe. While there, he got the opportunity to see firsthand how the professional football clubs in Europe developed their players from a very young age.
“He then decided to establish the institution that we have today. The concept was modeled on the Ajax FC of Holland youth academy system,” according to Coach Leogal.
Among the early challenges of the NJFA was the inability to recruit coaches and to get past players to volunteer their time.
With any new initiative, finance is always needed to ensure a smooth operation and some level of sustainability. It’s no surprise that for most of its existence, the NJFA has enjoyed some level of corporate sponsorship from well-established institutions on the island.
“AC Shillingford was the first major sponsor of the NJFA from its inception in 1993. This partnership lasted several years and Mr. Julius Timothy, the ACS manager, was the Patron,”
“Digicel Dominica LTD was our next major sponsor for nine years, for the period 2007-2016. Since then, we have not been able to attract any major sponsor,” he said with a sense of regret.
The NJFA, which embarked on two successful tours to Guadeloupe in 2008 and 2019, can rightly boast of a number of outstanding achievements during its 27 years of existence. In October of 2014, three players from the NJFA were among the standouts and first set of students to be selected to participate in a one-week training camp in Jamaica organized by Digicel in collaboration with the Chelsea Kick Start Foundation Program.
Gylles Mitchel, Andrez Joseph, and Quamie Bell impressed the coaches with their skills and were not surprisingly chosen to participate in that one week experience of a lifetime.
Also, Jamal Augustine, in March of 2018, was head and shoulders above the rest as he was selected for a 4-day football camp in Trinidad. His trip to Trinidad came as a result of his success in the Dominica leg of the FLOW/Manchester United Ultimate Football Skills Experience.
Several present and former senior national players, in the likes of Gylles Mitchel, Andrez Joseph, Fitz Jolly, Audel Laville, Sham Addi John, and Paul Victor, just to name a few, are all graduates of the NJFA. Quite a number of players have also gone on to represent the island at various youth levels.
At the NJFA, a high premium is placed not only on football but on academic achievement. This has driven the institution to seek opportunities for further advancement of its players on the pitch and in the classroom.
“Over the last four years, a number of our graduates have been able to secure partial football scholarships to study at universities and colleges in the United States of America. Gylles Mitchel and Andrez Joseph have graduated with Bachelors’s Degree while Montell James, Fitz Jolly, and Alijah Titre have all gone on to earn their Associate Degree,” Leogal, a former national coach said beaming with pride.
Just recently, the football academy concluded its inaugural two -week Summer Enhancement Program, which brought together a number of young boys and girls who participated in practical sessions as well as theoretical sessions.
Looking forward to another 27 years, Coach Leogal had this to say.
“The future plan is to expand from the normal Saturday schedule and have more enhancement programs especially during the summer holidays and to organize some weekend camps on a quarterly basis. Another major plan is to bring back the NJFA Youth Football competition during the Easter vacation,” he explained.
Lack of sponsorship at present is a major factor affecting the NJFA and may threaten its continued existence.
“Our present-day challenge is not being able to secure some form of sponsorship from 2016 when our last sponsorship deal with Digicel expired. So we are entirely relying on fundraising activities and from the monthly subscriptions of our students, which has been a challenge, but we continue to serve our young people,” he remarked.
The Newtown Juvenile Football Academy is presently managed by a team comprising Don Leogal, Albert Titre, Sabrina Bully, Reginald Lander, Darren Pinard and the ever-reliable Jerry “Sir Coipel” Coipel.
More than 50 coaches, some of whom have gone on to coach at the national level, have volunteered their services over the past 27 years. Presently, the NJFA is served by 13 coaches and volunteers.
Based on its history of successes, one can truly conclude that the NJFA is a breeding ground for nurturing talent.