Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Officials of Real Madrid Football Club and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) yesterday flagged off the construction of the Real Madrid Football Academy in Port Harcourt, initiated by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Sports dignitaries who attended the foundation laying ceremony at the precincts of Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt, included the President of Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick; President of International Sports Press Association, Gianni Merlo; President, International Sports Press Association Africa, Mitchell Obi; foreign sports writers, ex-internationals and top officials of Real Madrid Football Club.
Officials of Real Madrid at the occasion include: Manager, Real Madrid Foundation, Africa/Middle East, Inigo Arenillas; and Real Madrid Fund-Raising Officer, Oscar Diaz.
While laying the foundation for the academy, President of CAF, Ahmad Ahmad, said the academy is not only for Port Harcourt or Nigeria, but for the entire continent.
He said the Real Madrid Football Academy would promote international football best practices in the continent as well as raise future stars.
Ahmad noted that the timing of the construction of the academy was a proof that it was ordained by God.
Initiator of the Real Madrid Football Academy and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who spoke at an international press conference and during the foundation laying ceremony, said the academy would help in building a new crop of International stars across the country
He said the academy would be open to all kids, but with special preference for children from Rivers State, whose resources would fund the project.
He said: “When we initiated this laudable project, people doubted it, making different cynical comments. However, today, this project has come to fruition. It will be a solid foundation for our children
“We are proud to be associated with the best club in the world. Therefore, we will groom the best set of footballers “.
Wike said the project would be completed in seven months and inaugurated for use by members of the public. He said children to be admitted into the school would be between eight and 16 years.
“Sports is a catalyst for development. What we are doing is for the interest of everybody. To tell our footballers, we will do everything to support you,” he said.
In his remarks, President of International Sports Press Association, Mr Gianni Merlo, said Real Madrid, as the best club in the world, would develop a new set of stars from the Academy in Rivers State.
He said: “This is an important project for the whole world. It will mould international stars who will shape the game in the future”.
NFF President, Pinnick, said with the Real Madrid Football Academy, Nigeria would ensure the emergence of another generation that would keep the nation’s flag flying in the international football circle.
Rivers State Sports Commissioner, Mr Boma Iyaye, said with the establishment of the academy, Wike had shown unprecedented love for soccer.
He said the academy would contain a club house, classrooms, conference centre, training pitches and 1,000 capacity spectator stand among other facilities.
General Manager of the Real Madrid Football Academy in Port Harcourt, Tareh el-Hajj, said the academy was already in full swing as the management of Real Madrid in liaison with the Rivers State Government had set in motion modalities to ensure it succeeds.