Karamoko Dembele played the last 10 minutes of Celtic FC's U-20 victory over Hearts on Monday. On the surface, that is unspectacular. Until you take into account that Dembele is just 13 years old.
The diminutive midfielder made his debut for the club's U-20s and held his own, according to the team's own game report, garnering headlines all over the world in the process. It's easy to get carried away with a one-off event such as this, but the highlight reel for Dembele, whose parents hail from the Ivory Coast, shows a player with utmost confidence on the ball and a fearlessness to match it and suggests playing up so many levels may not be an isolated incident.
“We were all delighted to see Karamoko make his debut for the Development Squad last night against Hearts in what proved to be an entertaining game,” Celtic's Head of Youth Chris McCart said. “The fact that he was playing against other players seven years his senior gives an indication of the quality this young boy possesses and it was also fitting that he came on for Jack Aitchison, the club’s youngest-ever goal scorer.
“What we need to remember, though, is that Karamoko is just 13-years-old. He was given a chance to play last night on merit ... but it is very important that we continue their development at a measured pace.
“Karamoko is still a young boy and has a lot of growing to do, both physically and mentally. The coaches at our Under 13 and 14 levels have been fantastic in nurturing his potential but it is crucial that we do not push him too far, too soon.
“He has a lot of hard work ahead of him to make it to the top and we won’t rush that, but we also know Karamoko, and the other talented young players we have here, is at the perfect place to continue his progress and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for this young player.”
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