Covid-19: the PSG Academy facing the challenges of the pandemic

They were nearly 20,000 children at the beginning of the year to attend one of the 99 football schools of the PSG Academy, in 64 different cities and 13 countries. Three-quarters for a year-round program, the others for an internship during the holidays. And then, the Covid-19 arrived, sowing trouble across the planet and necessarily affecting the activity of schools launched by PSG to ensure its international development.

“It’s true that it was like for everyone an unprecedented situation and a real challenge, remarks Nadia Benmokhtar, the international manager of the PSG Academy. Because we ended up with all the structures around the world which closed between the end of February for the first ones, in Thailand, and March-April for the others. “

Parisian leaders quickly adapted to health constraints and to the end of sporting practices. “The reaction was to try as much as possible to find an alternative to maintain contact with all the players,” explains Nadia Benmokhtar. And it has gone through digital a lot, obviously. We put a lot of things in place. “

“Do not be forgotten by players and parents”

A “train at home” video series was thus created with Parisian coaches and educators from around the world. Educational documents have also been launched to improve the off-field education of young players: a Franco-English football dictionary, content on nutrition, sleep, recovery, the hygiene of an athlete’s life as well as messages about inclusion, tolerance.

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“What we were already instilling in our coaches in the network, we formalized it through documents,” explains Nadia Benmokhtar. And we told our Academy: You cannot be in the field at the moment, so take the opportunity to do theoretical lessons to disseminate this kind of content.. That was the challenge: to keep in touch, not to be forgotten by the players and the parents. “

The feedback will be positive. “This made it possible to have proof of what we say all year round: that we are not there only to train good footballers but also good people”, underlines the Parisian leader. Some large academies, such as those in Brazil which have 4,000 players, have also immediately taken initiatives, such as setting up online French courses. The smaller structures were delighted with the new tools provided by PSG. But others are more dependent on what has been offered to them.

Over the months and the evolution of health measures, all the academies manage to restart except local constraints as in Los Angeles where the resumption of team sports has not been authorized. “Between September and early October, everyone was open,” says Nadia Benmokhtar. But, here it is above all Europe which is closing: France, Germany, England, Switzerland… But in Thailand for example, all is well. “

“A drop in registrations”

However, the impact of the coronavirus remains great. Even where the academies have reopened. Nadia Benmokhtar explains: “In some countries, parents are reluctant to put their children back in a collective activity. So there is still a drop in registrations. This is particularly the case in Brazil or Florida.

In general, the organization of the structures is subject to a number of constraints: a very small number of children per site, disinfection of all the equipment between each session. “It’s true that it makes all the processes cumbersome,” says Nadia Benmokhtar. Fortunately, we have a network of solid and professional people because the small clubs cannot adapt. “

Despite everything, PSG intends to continue opening new schools around the world. The Geneva Academy was thus able to see the light of day in more timid conditions than expected. In Cayenne, Guyana, the case is also moving forward. The project in Rwanda is underway. China remains a target. “The good news is that the network is not collapsing,” says Nadia Benmokhtar. It’s just that the partners are a little more careful. But the attractiveness is still there. And that can be seen with almost daily requests for openings. “

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