A global sport charity has called on Premier League clubs to do more to help “talented” players from developing countries achieve their potential.
United Through Sport, which previously received backing from former Swansea City and Everton defender Ashley Williams, made the plea to major European teams as they set up a new satellite branch in Mauritius on Sunday.
Mauritian-born Darren Taylor, who is head of fundraising at the charity, said the Covid-19 pandemic “hit us hard” and forced them to shut down operations in the Caribbean island of St Lucia.
But after the Indian Ocean island opened its borders to foreign travellers on October 1, United Through Sport, which has hubs in South Africa and Argentina, pledged support for youngsters through a scheme that would involve coaches from abroad assisting with their development.
Mauritian Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Recreation Stephan Toussaint, who has given the project his backing, told the PA news agency he hoped it would help the island add to its one Olympic bronze medal.
Explaining how Premier League clubs could help the charity, Mr Taylor said: “They contact us. It’s as simple as that.
“I want to hear what they can do for us.
“Look across the oceans and see that the kids who play football, they are playing bare-footed in a lot of countries.
“We’ve delivered one sports facility in South Africa and Astroturf has meant that several teams can play and develop and that’s created success.
“We don’t need a lot, we just need those facilities and the right funding infrastructure.
“There is that support connection that is required, and that’s what we want to do. We want to work with a Premier League club and say right, we’ve got access to quite talented players.”
Mr Taylor, who is also chief operating officer for sustainable holiday company Pure Breaks, said Liverpool have started a football academy on the island but urged other teams to help African players make the step up to Europe’s top leagues.
Explaining why he has given the project his backing, Mr Toussaint told PA: “This is a great project for Mauritius – we will benefit a lot and we can also share our experience with others.
“This is fantastic. We have very high-class infrastructure here – we just built a new complex in the centre of the country … where we have an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a Fifa-pro approved football pitch.
“What we need to go a little bit further, hopefully maybe to have an Olympic medal, is really to have the experience and the knowledge coming from abroad.
“We have very good coaches, but I think we need a little bit of something more so we can go to the next level.”
On Sunday, young sporting hopefuls were presented with socks and sports balls as a token of goodwill from the charity, with Mr Taylor speaking of success stories such as Ghanaian players playing for FC Porto and Romanian Liga 1 teams.
Asked if he feels United Through Sport has given him an opportunity to pursue sport abroad, keen basketballer Emmanuel Farla, 17, said: “Yes, for sure.
“This is incredible. There are not a lot of countries that take people from Mauritius to play basketball and things like that because sport is not the main thing here.
“Having big countries coming to help, I think it’s a great opportunity for us.”
His teammate, Michel de Robillart, 18, said: “Not everyone wants to take Mauritius further abroad and help the youngsters to go further in their studies and still play basketball at a high level.”
Emmanuel, whose father won the Mr Universe title in 2018, added: “I think we have a lot of talent here but the media never really focuses on our island.”
Asked if he has ambitions to play abroad, the teenager told PA: “There’s already the Super League here in this country but it doesn’t have enough importance.
“So it would be incredible if players can go abroad and show how Mauritian players here are undervalued.
“We have very talented youngsters but not enough time for them to improve that talent.”