Europe’s most successful football club is transferring its ideology of being the best club in the world to Rivers State with the recent foundation laying ceremony of the Real Madrid Football Academy in Port Harcourt. It is a dream come true for the children of the state as the stage is set to building a new crop of International stars across the country. ANAYO ONUKWUGHA (Port Harcourt) reports
On Monday, March 28, 2018, the foundation laying ceremony of the Real Madrid Football Academy, was performed in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital by the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Ahmad Ahmad.
The ceremony, which was witnessed by the president of Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, president of International Sports Press Association (AIPS), Mr Gianni Merlo and president of International Sports Press Association Africa (AIPS-Africa), Mitchell Obi, was part of activities marking the third anniversary of the administration of governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
The dream for the establishment of the Real Madrid Football Academy, began during Wike’s campaigns ahead of the 2015 governorship election in Rivers State, when he said he will use sport as a means of empowerment for youths.
The decision to set up a Real Madrid Academy in the state was a well- considered strategy to drive football development in the state and harness the benefits of already available talents.
It was on this premise that the Rivers State government initiated engagement with Interact Sports and Real Madrid Foundation to actualise the dream of an academy in the state.
Officials of Interact Sports and Real Madrid Foundation visited Rivers State on September 20, 2017, where they met with Wike and officials of the Rivers State Ministry of Sports for the preliminary process for the establishment of the Academy.
That meeting produced initial agreement on the location, facilities, affiliation and personnel that will run the Academy. The partners then invited the governor over to Madrid for the concluding talks for the setting up of a Real Madrid Academy in Rivers State.
The trip to Madrid afforded Wike the first hand opportunity to deliberate with officials of the Real Madrid Foundation and Real Madrid on the different models that can be established in the state.
The governor, who was led on a guided tour of Real Madrid Training Facilities, had interactions with administrative officials and technical personnel to formalise the processes for the setting up of the academy.
Performing the foundation laying ceremony of the academy at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt, CAF President, Ahmad Ahmad, said the academy is not only for Port Harcourt or Nigeria, but for the entire continent.
Ahmad stated that the Real Madrid Football Academy will promote international football best practices in the continent as well as raise future stars.
He noted that the timing of the construction of the academy is a proof that it was ordained by God. To the AIPS president, Mr Gianni Merlo, Real Madrid as the best club in the world will develop a new set of stars from the Academy in Rivers State.
Merlo said, “This is an important project for the whole world. It will mould international stars who will shape the game in the future”.
For NFF president, Amaju Pinick, with the Real Madrid Football Academy, Nigeria will ensure the emergence of another generation that will keep the nation’s flag flying in the international football circle.
To the initiator of the academy and Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the state government initiated the Real Madrid Football Academy in the state to help in building a new crop of International stars across the country.
Wike stated that the football academy will be open to all kids, but with special preference to Rivers Children, whose resources will fund the project.
The governor said, “When we initiated this laudable project, people doubted it, making difference 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, who stated that the project will be completed in seven months and commissioned for use by members of the public, said children to be admitted into the school will be between 8 to 16years.
The governor said, “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.”
Addressing a press conference earlier at Government House, Port Harcourt, to herald the foundation laying ceremony, Wike said, “We are indeed very happy that God has made our dream come to reality.
“Some people had expressed disbelief at the possibility of establishing the Real Madrid Academy in Port Harcourt but we have signed the memorandum of understanding and today we will flag off the foundation.
“This foundation is for our children. I want to sincerely thank the Real Madrid foundation for agreeing to sign this partnership with us. Real Madrid are the best club in the world and we are opportune to be associated with the best club in the world.”
On his part, Tarik Elhad, general manager, Real Madrid Football Academy Rivers State, said, “We will take the ideology of the best club in the world and plant it in the ground of Rivers State.”
To Mr Boma Iyaye, Rivers State Sports commissioner, with the establishment of the Real Madrid Football Academy, Governor Wike has shown unprecedented love for soccer. Iyaye said the academy will contain a club house, classrooms, conference centre, training pitches and 1000 capacity spectator stand among other facilities.