English Premier League club Sunderland has extended its African ties by partnering with US energy firm Symbion Power to build what it claims will be a groundbreaking new football academy in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam.
Initial plans for the project were unveiled at an event in Sunderland attended by Tanzanian President, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. The project aims to bring football facilities to thousands of local youngsters in Dar es Salaam, with an elite-level facility also planned to help Tanzania’s development on the world footballing stage. Sunderland will provide both building expertise and coaching support.
“The first stage involves us working with Symbion Power to build a community-type academy, allowing many children to come and enjoy playing the game,” Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne told the club’s official website. “They will be able to play under floodlights and realise their dream of playing on football pitches. The second stage involves us working together with Symbion and possibly other conglomerates to build an elite academy. We will assist with the various models we use here at the Academy of Light and also with the knowledge we’ve gained from the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) project too.”
The new partnership comes after Sunderland last month announced that food service company BFS Group will become its new principal partner and shirt sponsor from the 2013-14 season. BFS Group is the main UK operation of the Bidvest Group, which is headquartered in South Africa. Sunderland has a growing affiliation with the African continent, which commenced with its link up with the Invest in Africa initiative and recent collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Commenting on the club’s strategy, Byrne added: “Our sponsorship deal with Invest in Africa really catapulted the club onto the continent. Now we have a partnership with Bidvest, a major South African conglomerate, Bidvest Wits Football Club and also Asante Kotoko in Ghana. We’re taking baby steps. We want to make sure any work we are doing is proper and that we’re getting our hands dirty and really getting involved.”