By Simeon Nwakaudu
Over the years, football has grown to be a major business platform that regenerates communities, states and countries. It is an avenue for youths in poor communities to escape poverty and become major contributors to the economies of their respective countries.
From Brazil to Spain, Argentina to Britain, Nigeria to Ecuador, Ghana to Netherlands, Cameroun to Germany, proficiency in football has transformed the lives of hitherto extremely poor kids.
To ignore the influence of football in modern economy is tatamount to denying a large percentage of naturally endowed children access to wealth.During his campaigns ahead of the 2015 governorship election in Rivers State, Governor Nyesom Wike promised that he would use sport as a means to empower youths.
The New Rivers Development Blueprint upon which Governor Wike was elected declared on Page 18: “Besides enhancing good health and productivity, sports is also a great profession for youth with talents, as well as mechanism for empowerment “.
Since assuming the reins of leadership in Rivers State, Wike has taken steps to reposition the sports sector for the good of the state.
Sharks and Dolphin Football Clubs were merged to form Rivers United. This was to give Rivers State a required competitive advantage in the nation’s football arena. Rivers United won a continental ticket after the merger.
The Diete-Spiff Civic Centre has been remodelled for the revival of different sports, while the state will host the African Wrestling Championship in February, 2018.
The state has in the last two years played host to major sporting events.
The decision to set up a Real Madrid Academy in Rivers State is 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 state government initiated engagement with Interact Sports and Real Madrid Foundation to actualize the dream of a Real Madrid Academy in the state.
Officials of Interact Sports and Real Madrid Foundation visited Rivers State on September 20, 2017. They met with Governor Wike and officials of the state’s 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 Governor Wike over to Madrid for the concluding talks for the setting up of a Real Madrid Academy in his state.
The trip to Madrid afforded the governor a 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 was led on a guided tour of Real Madrid Training Facilities, had interactions with administrative officials and technical personnel to formalize the processes for setting up the Academy.
The guided tour of the training facilities was laced with meetings with Portugal Captain and Real Madrid megastar, Cristano Ronaldo and Real Madrid Captain, Sergio Ramos.
On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, the process for the setting up of the Real Madrid Football Academy reached its highpoint.
Governor Wike and top officials of Real Madrid Foundation met at the Santiago Bernabeu. The meeting drew out the implementation framework, strategies, requirements and timelines for the establishment of the Academy in Rivers State.
Officials of the foundation were led by Managing Director, Julio Gonzalez and International Area Manager, Rosa Roncal Gimenez.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Sports, Mr Boma Iyaye, was also present at the meeting.
In an interview after the meeting, Governor Wike said the deliberation went satisfactorily, saying that the partnership has reached its highpoint.
The governor said that the Academy would help the state harness the opportunities inherent in football as it would empower the upcoming generation.
He said: “This is the concluding part of the process of establishing a Real Madrid Academy in Rivers State. It is our dream to empower our youths through football.
“Today, you know that football is big business and one of the ways to improve the economy. This meeting is the height of our deliberation to get the Academy started. We are happy that this has gone on satisfactorily. Rivers youths will reap the benefits of the Academy “.
Highpoint of the meeting was the presentation of a Special Real Madrid jersey created “NEW” to the Rivers State governor by the Managing Director of Real Madrid Foundation , Julio Gonzalez.
International Area Manager of Real Madrid Foundation , Rosa Roncal Gimenez lauded the governor for the initiative to set up a Real Madrid Academy in Rivers State.
Later on Tuesday (October 17, 2017), the Rivers State Governor, and Florentino Pérez, Real Madrid President, met at the Santiago Bernabeu to finalise agreement on the setting up of a Real Madrid Affiliated Football Academy in Rivers State.
Once fully established, the Real Madrid Academy in the state will develop the full potential of Rivers Youths as world class footballers, who will be productive agents in the state’s economy. The setting up of a Real Madrid Academy is a state development project that will place Rivers State on the international football stage.
Governor Wike through this initiative has brought to the doorsteps of Rivers youths an Academy that will transform their fortune, expose them to the fundamentals of professionalism, discipline and develop their future.
This is a commendable move that is way beyond politics. It is an initiative that will stand the test of time and attract economic growth to Rivers State. Therefore, it should be supported by well-meaning Rivers people.