By Skilder Makona
The face of Zimbabwe’s football is set for a transformation following a global partnership between Athletes Sports Management and Real Betis Academy of Spain, which was officially launched in Harare this Friday evening.
The launch is expected to boost grassroots football and ultimately transform the face of the game in Zimbabwe.
Top government officials, who graced the grand function, welcomed the initiative saying the partnership will go a long way in the growth and development of football in the country.
“The partnership is expected to take football to the next level and the government fully supports this initiative as it will go a long way in marketing brand Zimbabwe. I, therefore, call upon other football clubs to emulate such good deeds,” said Minister of State in Vice President Kembo Mohadi’s Office Honourable Davis Marapira.
The Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Dr Kirsty Coventry said; “hopefully the focus this time will also look at girls and give them equal opportunities as their male counterparts. The Ministry has already embarked on talent identification programmes and this partnership dovetails well with our vision. This alliance brings us a glimmer of light and an opportunity for talent to strive”
Other delegates noted that the global partnership signals the dawn of a new era in Zimbabwe’s football.
“This is an exceptional day for both Zimbabwe and Spain as we are witnessing the first-ever football project. This is a promising project which fits perfectly in Spain’s policy of engaging Africa. The future looks bright,” said Spanish Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ambassador Santiago Gomez.
“Looking forward to a fruitful partnership with Zimbabwe and we assure you that greater things are coming. Grassroots football development is the way to go and we are very much happy to be part of this great initiative,” Marcos Pelegrin, the La Liga Managing Director for Africa said.
“It is our conviction that we spread this academy across the country and not just end in Harare. We are ready to give every child an opportunity and we believe football has the power to unify people,” Gerald Sibanda, the Athletes Sports Management Director said.
Under the leadership of Murape Murape, the Real Betis Academy coaches who include Gift Lunga Junior, Philemon Mutyakureva, Johannes Ngodzo and Tichaona Dhiya, were also unveiled at the ceremony.
The nursery, which will take on board players between the ages of 8 and 18, will be overseen by Real Betis technical director, Juan Parra, who is scheduled to come and work in Zimbabwe early next year.