Rivers State Government on Saturday unveiled the state-owned Real Madrid Football Academy in Port Harcourt, which was constructed to promote professional football.
Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, while inaugurating the academy, also unveiled the ultra-modern football training facility.
This was done in the presence of officials of Real Madrid Football Club and Rivers Government at the occasion.
Makinde, while speaking, said the Academy would groom the next generation of stars.
“This project will allow the early discovery and harnessing of football talents in Rivers.
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“There has always been great football talents from Rivers. Great players like Taribo West, George Finidi and Joseph Yobo. This project will create more stars”
Makinde said sports remained one of the greatest unifying factors in Nigeria, adding that by developing the Real Madrid Academy, the administration of Gov. Nyesom Wike was promoting national unity.
He commended Wike for his commitment to the development of Rivers.
In his address, Gov. Wike said the unveiling of the Real Madrid Academy was one of the happiest events of his life as it marked the beginning of a new football era.
“Today is one of the happiest days of my life. Today, our dream has come to fruition by the help of God,’’ he said.
The governor said the State Government resolved to construct a school and hostel in addition to current facilities at the academy.
Wike said that 70 percent of the students of the Academy would be from Rivers, while other Nigerians would form 30 percent of the school’s intake.
“The money used to execute this project is from Rivers. Therefore, Rivers money is for Rivers people. Seventy percent of the students will be indigenes of Rivers, while the remaining 30 percent will be from other states.
“All Rivers indigenes to be trained in the Academy will school here free of charge,’’ he said.
Wike said the people of Rivers deserved the best, and this was why his administration was committed to initiating and executing quality projects for the people.
Area Manager of Real Madrid Foundation for Africa and the Middle East, Inigo Vallejo, assured the State Government that the club would continue to support the academy’s sustained development.
He said after series of engagement with Gov. Wike on the Academy, the club has keyed into it and would help drive the project.
Vallejo, who thanked Wike for his commitment to football development, stated that Real Madrid Football Club would provide the necessary technical support to develop the Academy.
Secretary to the State Government, Tammy Danagogo, also stated that the governor made outstanding contributions to sports development to merit his award “Power of Sports in Africa’’.
In a project description, Permanent Secretary, Rivers Ministry of Sports, James Enebeli, said the project marked the opening of a new chapter in football development in the state.
The high point of the event included an exhibition match between a selected team and Banham Model Primary School in Port Harcourt, who were winners of Channels Television Kids Cup.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the match ended 1-1.