As Jamaica continue to celebrate their Digicel Caribbean Cup 2010 win, many footballers from the final eight teams are being called up for trials for foreign clubs. Former footballer and current official scout for Belgian club, Sporting Charleroi and Premiership side, Stoke City, Mr. Ali Lukunku spoke exclusively to www.digicelfootball.com about the talent in the region and what he is looking for for his clubs.

Maboula "Ali" Lukunku (born: 14 April 1976 in Kinshasa) is a football striker from Congo DR. During his football career he has played for FC Erzgebirge Aue; AS Monaco; Standard de Liège; Galatasaray S.K. and Lille OSC.

I am an official scout for the Belgium team, Sporting Charleroi, and English team, Stoke City, and so I travel wherever I feel there is an opportunity to spot talent. It’s quite an exciting time for Charleroi in particular – where there is a new regime in place – and we are looking for a very specific type of player, ones who are experienced. In return, these players are brought to Europe and exposed to a new style of football – as well as having the opportunity to move around to different clubs.

In terms of talent, for me it’s simple. There are one or two players from each team who are very good. However, if we’re talking about potentials for Charleroi, then I see many of the Jamaican players as having the right attributes. They have the technique and, while they are still young – some are 25 or less – they are talented, they are intelligent and collectively they play well together. Also, because football is not just about the quality and ability – but also brain – the Jamaicans are smart players and this is very important for us.

In the region in general, you have some teams like Martinique for example who are not there yet and then you also have Jamaica who have an unbeaten record so far. So while there are different levels, if you look at the semi-final match between Jamaica and Grenada, this was a good level of football and a great match. Grenada have some good experienced players and Shelton for Jamaica, who is only 25 years old, has played 58 games for his National team – and this is so important.

The Digicel Caribbean Cup is a very important tournament for players to get crucial international experience. Also, it is great for them to get exposure as many scouts are here. Scouts like this style of tournament as they get to see all the teams play many times over a short period. The teams play every two days, which might be difficult for them, but the very best players will stand out – so it’s good for the scouts. The players who are physically very fit will shine through. In Europe, this frequency of play would be unheard of – so the reasoning is, if they are good in this tournament, they will be physically able to play in Europe with ease.

European football is more physical and tactical. The quality of player is different because the structure is different. In Europe, there is more focus on the individual footballers’ needs. I think the Jamaica team plays similar in style to European football. But for me, the Caribbean is like African football used to be. When you see African players who came to Europe and then returned to play for their country, you see how the standard has improved and over time this will happen here in the Caribbean. For example – most of the Senegal, Ivory Coast and Zaire players play in France, Belgium and England. When they come together, of course they must show their ability but also play as a unit – and show the identity of their nation. When I talk about intelligence in football, I’m talking about understanding what the coach wants and then converting that and applying it on the field easily – switching from club style to country style.

There was a great atmosphere during the DCC semi-final and the final was also fantastic. Going forward, I think it’s important that all the individual Caribbean Federations really want to win this tournament and then, over time, we will see the performances improve and the profile of the tournament increase.

Projects such as the Digicel Kick Start Clinics are a fantastic initiative as bringing on youth football is extremely important. The established, older players who come back to teach young people and possibly give a chance to one or two talented aspiring young footballers begin a circle of giving back to poorer nations which is fantastic.”

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