Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has explained that his administration has put in place an organisation that will Independently run Real Madrid Academy in order to achieve the objectives of establishing the institution.
In an interview on Thursday at the Government House Port Harcourt, Governor Wike said that the framework that his administration worked out was satisfactory to Real Madrid Football Club.
He said: “We were able to assure Real Madrid that we have put in place an organisation, that even though Government will fund it, the organisation is totally independent to run it, so that there will be no interference from Government.
“We had in-house skeptics who didn’t believe that Real Madrid will agree to open an Academy here in Port Harcourt. We also had the challenge of the location of the school. We thereafter resolved to site it at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium.
“We are committed to achieving results as far as the Real Madrid Academy is concerned. What is important is identifying what we want to do and going ahead to do it.”
Governor Wike expressed optimism that the Academy will outlive his tenure because the goals are youth-centred and the necessary steps already taken to ensure sustenance.
“My prayer is that whoever will succeed me should not allow the dream to die. It will be quite unfortunate killing the dream of youths. It will not be taken lightly. The youths will never forgive such a person. What is important, don’t kill the dream of youths.
“God will pick someone who will continue with this dream to allow the children who want to excel to have the opportunity. Football is the in thing today. Every weekend, midweek, most of us don’t go out, because we want to watch matches as Football has taken a central role in the unity of nations, in the economy of nations and therefore, I don’t think any development conscious person would want to kill this dream.
“Real Madrid Academy is a project anyone would want to continue with and probably expand on”, the Rivers State Governor noted.
He charged Rivers youths to take advantage of the Real Madrid Academy to grow their football careers.
Governor Wike said: “Let me advise our youths to use the opportunity available to excel in life. What is important in life is taking advantage of opportunities. Tomorrow, you maybe a Ronaldo, you may be a Messi , you maybe Adokiye Amiesimaka, you maybe Richard Owobokiri, you never can tell.
“No Rivers son who wants Football as a career should give any excuse that he cannot actualize his potentials.”
The Rivers State Governor explained that his commitment to the project stems from the expected benefits, which will positively impact the State.
He said: “I am elated when people call me from across the world to ask after Real Madrid Academy. I can beat my chest today, if there is one achievement that is the fact that we have provided avenue for the empowerment of our youths. For our youths to exhibit their potentials and also excel.
“When we sent the children from Banham Model Primary School to Madrid, you needed to see the joy of the parents as they escorted them to the airport. They never believed that from their poor background, they will be making such trip. That is my own joy. To bring joy to others, especially the less privileged.
“What is important is that I have initiated what I believe would help the youths of the State, especially those interested in developing a football career. We have been able to lay a foundation for them.”
He said the State Government was able to surmount the initial challenges because of the determination of his Administration.
“Part of the initial challenge is whether Real Madrid as a club, will agree to establish an Academy in Rivers State , being the first in Nigeria and Africa.
“Another has to do with whether Government will continue with it, assuming today I leave as Governor. And you know part of the problems of the country is lack of continuity of programmes”, he said.
Governor Wike said that the investment in the establishment of Real Madrid Academy is a calculated move to lift Rivers youths through Football.
“Rivers State has produced a lot of stars as far as football is concerned. Remember the likes of Adokiye Amiesimaka, the likes of Richard Owobokiri and all of them. And knowing the role that football plays today, not only as raising the economy and finances of countries and states, but it has become a uniting factor.
“Therefore, we thought we have to make our contribution and not allow the game to die in the State. For the past six to seven years, we have not been able to produce people at the National Level.
“The last person was Joseph Yobo and we felt that something must have gone wrong and therefore, there is a need to do something to encourage those who have talents to excel in their potentials.
“I felt that one of the ways we can do this is to ensure that there is a Football Academy . An Academy that will train the youths from when they are very young. Therefore, we thought that as a state we should go for the best. We cannot be the Treasure Base of the Nation and not go for the best.
“The best in terms of record, performance and achievements is Real Madrid. When we started it, so many people felt it was a way of siphoning money , but today we are happy that Real Madrid agreed with us that an Academy should be set up in the State.
“The children are happy that they have the opportunity to excel and actualize their potentials. It is the responsibility of every government to provide the enabling environment to give the children the opportunity to excel . That’s why we said that for the mandate Rivers people have given to us, we must also provide the necessary opportunity for them. It has come to fruition,” he said.