Before the match between Spain and Ukraine, that record was held by Juan Errazquin. Errazquin was 18 years and 344 days when he scored for Spain in 1925. Ansu Fati did not only score a sensational goal. He scored a goal that was vital in the 4-0 demolition of Ukraine in the Nations League on Sunday 6th September 2020. Ukrainian defenders struggled to contain the teenager’s pace and dribbling skills. Reacting to Ansu Fati’s performance Spanish coach Luis Enrique said,
“Even though I know him well and what he’s capable of, I can’t say I’m not surprised. It is not normal. He showed such bravery and daring to do what he did in the second minute, beating a player so naturally. I can’t remember him doing anything like this before.”
Ansu Fati began an impressive run at the start of the game dribbling past Oleksandr Tymchyk. His marauding run was stopped by Serhuy Kryvtsov in the penalty area. This eventually led to a penalty in the third minute. Sergio Ramos did not fail to convert to set Spain ahead.
◾ Youngest ever scorer in the Champions League ✅
◾ Youngest ever scorer for Barcelona in La Liga ✅
◾ Youngest ever scorer for Spain ✅
Ansu Fati is a special talent 🙌 pic.twitter.com/6IRdlEP831
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 6, 2020
Prior to becoming the youngest player to score for Spain, Ansu Fati was also the youngest player to score for Barcelona at the age of 16 years and 304 days. A few months later, he became the youngest player to score at the Champions League. After the sensational match between Spain and Ukraine, Fati said,
“The truth is that it is a point of pride to work with Luis and these players, who have received me with open arms. I will keep working, stay humble, and let things come my way.”
Can Ansu Fati become the new Messi?
The question that many will be asking now is can Ansu Fati become the new Lionel Messi? The Barcelona legend announced that he would be leaving the club this year. However, after a series of controversies, he agreed to stay.
Since that announcement, fans have been wondering who the likely replacement would be. Nevertheless, Barcelona is already looking at revamping the first team in preparation for the future. Ansu Fati will have a chance to prove that he is worthy to be in the first team. According to Enrique,
“At his age, it is very easy for the hype to get to you, but Ansu is mature enough to stay on the path that he is following. He is level-headed and with his feet on the ground. He’s humble, he’s calm and I’m sure it won’t affect him.”
Ansu Fati is not a Spaniard. He was born in Guinea-Bissau. However, he moved with his family to Sevilla after his brother Braima signed for the club. His brother Miguel is also a soccer player. Also, their father Bori Fati was a former professional soccer player. Born into a family of soccer players, becoming an international sensation is only a matter of time.
Although Ansu Fati was eligible to represent Guinea-Bissau, we did not find any detail that shows he was approached by the soccer association. On September 20, 2019, Fati was granted Spanish citizenship. Consequently, he renounced his home country’s citizenship. Since accepting the call up for the Spanish team, Ansu Fati can no longer feature for his home country. He is currently worth €50 million in the transfer market.
Ansu Fati was only 10 when he joined Barcelona. Currently, he has a contract running until 2022. However, President Josep Maria Bartomeu is considering handing him a contract for life. In an interview, Bartomeu said,
“He’s essential for the future of the club. Ansu is not for sale. He represents the academy the players come out of, learn from and consolidate themselves in the first team. He’s unique because he jumped from the youth team to the first team. There are not many players like him and Barcelona cannot sell him, even if it would be an economic solution for the club in the times of this pandemic.”
Lessons for African soccer associations
Most African leagues are struggling with organisation. Also, players in the local leagues are often ignored while their peers in European leagues get called for international competitions. Consequently, a lot of young players do all they can to leave the shores of Africa. Some of them—like Ansu Fati—end up representing their host countries. Africa is losing lots of young soccer talents to European countries and it is time African soccer associations do something about it.
The first step should be to develop the local leagues to make them competitive and attractive. The local leagues should be the breeding ground for talents. Also, issues like non-payment of match bonuses and match-fixing scandals should be tackled. Eventually, national team coaches should be made to prioritise calling up local players for national competitions. This will make the players in the local league to work harder to get a spot in the National team.
Lastly, the respective African soccer associations should reach out to players of African descent who are still eligible to represent their home countries before they are capped by their host countries. If Africa keeps more of her young talents, winning the World Cup will become an achievable reality. Tell us, what do you think is the best way to make the local leagues in Africa more attractive?