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Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
SPANISH La Liga club Real Betis will launch the first Betis Academy in Africa, in Zimbabwe this year, in one of the biggest developments in local football for years.

The launch of the state-of-the-art academy is set to be a major boost for grassroots development in domestic football.

It will also be the first of a series of sports projects in Zimbabwe which Real Betis say they will launch in this country.

The projects, according to the club, will be part of their strategic plan to extend their brand throughout the world.

The La Liga club announced yesterday they had chosen Harare as the base for their first academy on the continent.

Former Manchester City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, is now in charge of Real Betis.

“China, Morocco, United States, Mexico, and now, Zimbabwe,’’ the La Liga club announced on their website yesterday.

“Real Betis and the Club’s Foundation reached an agreement with the Zimbabwean agency, Athletes Sphere Management (ASM), to launch a series of sports projects in the African country within the club’s strategic plan, looking to extend its brand and methodology throughout the world, while educating and transmitting the institution’s values through football.

“As an initial step, Real Betis and the Real Betis Foundation will start operating from October, together with ASM, the first Betis Academy on the African continent, specifically in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, with the aim of developing grassroots football on the region by implementing the Club’s methodology, as long as the evolution of the pandemic allows it.

“Real Betis and its f oundation have been working for years, with the youngest footballers in Seville through its local Academy, and have been developing over the last seasons an expansion plan, materialised with the launch of several sports programmes all around the globe.

“(The projects are based) in Reno, Fresno, Lemoore (United States), Ciudad de Mexico, Toluca, Monterrey, Guadalajara (Mexico), Fez (Morocco) and Wenzhou (China).’’

Club general director of business, Ramon Alarcon, said they were one of the special franchises in Spanish football.

“Real Betis is one of the most historical football clubs in Spain and, without a doubt, one of the most beloved ones,’’ he said in a statement.

“Not only because of that historical character, but also because of its idiosyncrasy and values, its unshakable faith, its ability to excel and the joy of its people.

“And, those values are precisely what we try to transfer in all our international projects — educating from football, transmitting all the values that surround the Betis brand and doing it with the same methodology that we use within our youth teams.’’Rafael Muela, general manager of the Real Betis Foundation, said such projects are even more important given the challenges currently facing the world.

“In this exceptional situation, agreements like this one make us especially excited and fill us with optimism, since they show that both the Real Betis Balompie Foundation, and its partners around the world, keep moving so that the youngest population can keep enjoying football”.

The Spanish club are backed by Betway, Kappa, Cruzcampo, CaixaBank, BeSoccer, Coca-Cola and Mercedes Benz.

The Betis Foundation said it works under the parameters established by Real Betis’ historical and philosophical values, and the Club’s universal social dimension.

To achieve these goals, the following activities, among others, will be undertaken:

l Organisation and promotion of all kinds of sporting activities.

l Promotion of Academy and amateur football.

l Activities focused on the sports formation and technification for coaches and athletes, as well as managers and directors of sporting institutions.

l Research, studies and publications related with the objects and activities of the Foundation.

l Conservation, promotion, diffusion and assessment of the Real Betis Balompié historical, cultural and social patrimony.

l Management and use of the sporting facilities and equipment in which the activities will take place, whether they belong to Real Betis Balompié or any other public or private institution.

l Co-operation actions and promotion of sports in developing countries.

Marcos Pelegín, the managing director for Southern Africa, said they have always maintained that they want to play a huge role in the development of football on the continent.

La Liga have been on an aggressive drive to spread their brand on the continent.

“One of LaLiga’s most important stated objectives is to support football growth around the world,’’ said Pelgin.

“We are really excited for Real Betis and for the young Zimbabwean football players that will enroll in this programme.

“Seeing how one of our Spanish clubs enlarge their presence in Africa is great news for everyone.

“We are looking forward to collaborating with the axxxxcademy in future projects”.

ASM president, and chief executive, Gerald Sibanda, said this was a milestone partnership.

“I am extremely happy for this global partnership, bringing world-class community opportunities to Zimbabwe,’’ said Sibanda.

“From ASM, we are looking forward to help growing Real Betis Balompie’s brand in the region and seeing great football projects being birthed through this partnership.

“It is with great honour and I am so pleased to lead the new Betis Academy Zimbabwe. My blood is now green-and-white.’’

ASM describe themselves as a “world-class sports management company based in Zimbabwe with global business networks within Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.

“ASM represent various stakeholders in the world of sports including coaches and professional athletes across the sports spectrum.

“Key partnerships and synergies with worldwide sporting institutions have been established, creating business and commercial opportunities, grassroots development programmes in key sporting codes including football, rugby, or boxing among others.’’