Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, one of the big oil states in Nigeria, has said that his administration was perfecting the Real Madrid Football Academy as a fundamental development tool that will serve as a catalyst for uniting kids from all backgrounds under the auspices of football.
In a keynote address during the 83rd Congress of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) in Budapest, Hungary on Tuesday, Wike noted that sport is an avenue to raise young people with the right character and determination to be successful in life.
“In Rivers State, more than 50% of the population falls within the age brackets where talents can be discovered, skills can be sharpened, and dreams can be fulfilled through pragmatic nurturing, training and motivation. And football, among other sports, presents itself as one of the best possible ways of raising generations of young people with character and determination to achieve outstanding results and prosperity.
“We are therefore promoting the Real Madrid Football Academy, Port Harcourt, as a fundamental development tool with its entire foundation anchored on the combination of quality education and excellent soccer, which you know, is a catalyst for bringing together kids from all backgrounds with a common passion for football”, the governor said.
According to him, the Real Madrid Football Academy was initiated to use football as a means to transform the lives of young people, adding, “it is true that the future of any country or society is revealed in the character and quality of its youth. But what the youth eventually become in life is also founded on the extent and quality of education and skills they acquire from the cradle to the age of responsibility.
“It has been proven time and time again, that for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but with latent talents, a successful career in professional football is a sure ticket out of poverty. History is also replete with several inspirational stories about young men and women who have migrated from rags to riches as a result of engaging in successful professional football and other lucrative sporting careers.
“What this means is that the values of football and education are both important and can coexist as a medium to drive the development, character, and prosperity of our youth. This was the spirit that motivation for the establishment of Real Madrid Football Academy, Port Harcourt, which foundation was laid on the Monday, May 28, 2018, by the President of the Confederation of African Football, Ahmad Ahmad supported by other national and international dignitaries, including my good friend and President of AIPS, Gianni Merio”.
While recalling the Power of Sports (POS) Africa award to him by AIPS in 2017, noting that the award has spurred him towards greater investments in sports for the benefit of humanity, the governor outlined the progress made with the football academy. He said that the world-class facilities of the Academy were commissioned in September 2019, while the Academy will educate countless young people in the coming years.
“The academy is expected to foster youth development by nurturing and producing talented football players for the State, national and international teams within the Real Madrid Football Club’s style of play and success mentality, as well as inculcating critical skills and life values that will benefit our youth beyond the footballing sphere to whichever path they take in the future.
“For us, the football academy is a well-thought-out resource for our youth and a great legacy for Rivers State, Nigeria, and Africa. Let me assure you that we are committed to the wellbeing of our young ones and will continue to provide the opportunity, training and the support that they need through education and sports to actualize their dreams and live a prosperous life”, he said.
In a question and session after his presentation, Governor Wike assured the Presidents of Sports Writers from Africa that the Real Madrid Academy will accommodate kids from other African countries.
He said that a mechanism has been worked out to ensure the sustenance of Real Madrid Academy even after the end of his tenure. Wike said that the state government is also working with corporate organizations to promote their participation in the Real Madrid Academy.
The highpoint of the occasion was the presentation of a Recognition Award to Governor Wike by the leadership of AIPS. AIPS Africa through its President, Mitchell Obi also decorated Governor Wike for his contributions to the development of sports in Africa.