Karamoko Dembele made his Celtic u-20 debut, coming on in a Development League game against Hearts at Cappielow. The 13 year old, originally born in London to parents from the Ivory Coast, went viral when this story broke online on Tuesday night. The question is, as it put more expectation on him to succeed?
Dembele was substituted on in the 81st minute on Monday, becoming the youngest player to play in the development league. This has inevitably attracted much interest not just in Scotland, but around the world. But did it really need to happen? No. That would be the simple answer for the many reasons below.
The hype surrounding this kid will continue to build as rumours are circling that the SFA have already tried to fast-track him into the Scotland set up to represent his adopted country over the Ivory Coast – the nation of his parents or England – his county of birth. With making his debut on Tuesday, people will expect him to continue to be involved in and around the U-20 set up between now and the end of the season. They could easily expect him to be a big part of the youth team by 15 and break into the first team, similar to Kieran Tierney, and nail down a starting berth by 17 or 18 years old. I have to feel Celtic have promoted him too highly and too early which leads me to my next point.
The move to put Dembele in the team did send out a message but, for me, not the right one. I feel it’s a little bit of a disrespectful one. I understand Celtic clearly think highly of him, and the young kid does look a player, but did they really need to jump him up the age groups so much when they could’ve given one of their u17’s a run to give them some experience ahead of a potential move into the u20 team on a full time basis next year. It’s also a bit disrespectful to Hearts by saying we can beat you with even by playing someone as young as Karamoko. Having said this, if they take it the right way, it does send out a positive message to those looking to earn a full time contract with the Scottish Champions and that is that they need to step up their game.
Scotland’s children’s commissioner has stated the need for a rule to be brought in to end the exploitation of children by clubs in Scotland following Dembele playing for Celtic’s u20’s. The SFA and SPFL were both “surprised” by these comments and SPFL main sponsor, Ladbrokes, have apologised for taking bets regarding the kids future within the game. According to the bookmaker, no bets were made and the markets have since been taken down.
Celtic stated that the player “did not look out of place” and that he played on merit. Young players can be locked into very low paid contracts at an early age that they can’t get out of and Karamoko could be another player to fall into this trap. The Scottish Government is looking into changing the regulations regarding blocking professional clubs from tying up young prospects to similar deals in the future.
By Cameron Christie