Get to know Finesse Sport United FC the academy that trained rave of the moment Leo Messo.

Seeing the name Leo Messo , one would think the discussion would be about Barcelona Captain Leo Messi. However Leo Messo is a 10 year old British Born footballer with Kenyan Heritage who just got signed to the Arsenal academy.

Leo Messo just like Leo Messi is a forward who can play with his left leg but Messo is gifted with the ability to play with both feet . Leo Messo didn’t just make the breakthrough to Arsenal , he went through stages that earned him the opportunity to sign for the Arsenal Academy. One of the stages Messo went through was the Finesse Sport United FC.

Finesse Sport United FC is an academy based in Dagenham, East London. Finesse Sport Academy has produced a host of young talented players who have gone on to sign for big clubs in the country. The academy is ran by the duo of Ola Kukoyi and Patrick Hadden.

Earlier this week, football.London spoke with both Ola and Patrick to discuss the academy, Messo and the players who just signed for Arsenal from Finesse.

Can you tell us more about Finesse?

The academy is for age groups from under sevens up to under 12s. This year we’ve tried to expand it to 13s and 14s as well, but those are the general age groups. At the moment we’ve lost six players to Arsenal and a few others to different clubs. We’ve lost probably 10 or 12 players to academies this year, so we’re in the process of a rebuild this year.  As a grassroots club, we don’t want to keep players for the sake of it. If they have aspirations of moving to the elite level, we want to provide a platform for them to do so.

Who is Leo Messo?

Leo is British-born with Kenyan heritage. He’s been with us since the age of five.  We started coaching Leo a few years ago when he was five. Since then we’ve gradually been able to build a team, he’s stayed training with us consistently to the point where Arsenal have decided to sign him at under-9s.  His journey started with Little Kickers when he was three years old. He went to a couple of grassroots teams and ended up with us at the age of five. When he came to us he got scouted for West Ham, from there he’s gone to Chelsea and Arsenal and over the last two and a half years he’s been training with those clubs. At that age group, they’re able to play for multiple clubs. West Ham really wanted to keep him, Chelsea liked him but didn’t offer him a contract from my knowledge. Arsenal offered him and the dad was happy for him to join.  At that age group, they’re not really restricted to a position. He’s both footed, a technical player who can play on the left, right and in the middle – he’s very tenacious in the way he goes about his business on the pitch.

What do you think of Messo trending worldwide?

I’m guessing because his name is so similar to Lionel Messi it’s just caught fire. I don’t think from us or his parents there has been any sort of pressure. His development and the way it’s been treated, we’ve just allowed him to play with freedom and no pressure at all.  He more or less dictated what he wanted to do, where he likes to play, whether it’s for West Ham or Arsenal – allow him to be a kid. I don’t think even he knows the articles or social media posts about him. He’s too young to know what’s going on.  There’s no pressure at all on him, not from any one of us, his parents or anyone. 

When did you start coaching Leo?

Myself and Ola started coaching Leo a few years ago when he was five. Since then we’ve gradually been able to build a team, he’s stayed training with us consistently to the point where Arsenal have decided to sign him at under-9s. His name is Leo and it just happens that his name is Messo. He wasn’t named after Messi but it’s funny because the first time I met him I referred to him as Messi.

How was Leo spotted by Arsenal?

The football world is very small. They found him from scouting and our network of scouts and people we know within football. Based on his own talents really, he wouldn’t have got in if he wasn’t good enough. 

Do you prepare parents for what happens if the kid doesn’t make it?

It doesn’t always work out and we try to prepare parents in terms of what we tell them. Getting into an academy is just the first step. You haven’t made it yet because you’ve got a long journey yet. You have to be prepared for anything that football throws at you, whether that’s injuries or being released. Most academies will do everything to get you in, but when you’re not up to the standard, not performing or a better player comes in – they’ll release you. We know players who have been at a club since the age of 8, they get in to the under-21s or 23s, get released and it all goes downhill from there.

What have you told Leo and the other players who have just signed for Arsenal?

We just told him to take it step-by-step. With the dad the advice we gave him is take each day as it comes, work hard and try to be the best you can. If it doesn’t work out at Arsenal there are other avenues and routes you can go down in terms of football. Arsenal are a Cat 1 club – you can drop down to Cat 2 depending on your situation. If being a player doesn’t work out there are other avenues you can go down, It’s not the be-all and end-all. We tell them that you’ll bounce back. A sign of a good player is the ability to bounce back from adversity. That’s what we tell the parents and kids. It’s ok to get things wrong as long as you have the right attitude to bounce back, and learn from your mistakes and move forward.



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