Safe Haven Football Academy was inaugurated on Sunday in Ikorodu area of Lagos State as part of efforts to develop grassroots sports in Nigeria.
The academy, which is situated at Safe Haven, Legina Estate, near Adamo Town in Ikorodu, was established by Rev. Dele George of the little Saints Orphanage, Lagos in partnership with Daraya Sports, La Liga and Real Betis.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some of the young players, aged between 10 and 12, along with their officials, were presented to the public at the inaugural ceremony.
Rev. Dele George, in a speech, said that the main goal was to remove vulnerable children/ adolescents, abandoned or orphaned, from the streets.
“We want to reform and empower such children.
“The academy will stir up the natural and academic abilities of the children/adolescents, while creating a safe environment for the maximisation of their abilities.
“The academy will also empower the children/adolescents for prosperous and independent living in adulthood.
“The Little Saints Orphanage has, in the past 25 years, rehabilitated, reformed and reintegrated hundreds of orphans in Lagos State. Majority of these children/adolescents have been adopted into wonderful families approved by the government.
“The children/adolescents left in the orphanage are currently engaged in academic and vocational pursuits, including sports. They have become the pride and joy of our nation,” she said.
George commended La Liga and Real Betis for partnering her orphanage for the football academy, stressing that their efforts would enhance football development in Nigeria.
Mr Desmond Chiji, a representative of La Liga Global Network for Ghana and Nigeria, in a remark, said that the partnership would help the quest to discover and develop talents from the grassroots, adding that the developments would be in stages.
According to Chiji, La Liga has entered into an agreement with Nigeria professional football league where it just concluded a coaching seminar.
He added that La Liga usually organise an under-15 football tournament every year but could not do so this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that La Liga was a global brand committed to discovering and developing talents in the community.
“We want to speak the local language; we don’t want to be another league that just came and showed football.
“We don’t want La Liga to be made up of only Spanish teams. We also want Nigerian teams with different languages.”
He said that the U-15 tournament organised every year usually bring out the best out of the teams, with the very best players chosen to go to Spain and train with some of the clubs.
Chiji further said that La Liga had also partnered the Spanish Embassy and different organisations to organise sporting clinics and also develop an engagement with the Nigeria women football league which was also important to developing talents.
He urged the kids to be disciplined and be dedicated in order to get to the higher level, and promised to continue to develop community youths and women grassroots football.
A former Super Eagles player, Mutiu Adepoju, commended the partnership with world international football groups like La Liga and Real Betis, stressing that the academy would improve football development in Nigeria, if sustained.
He called for structures that would encourage grassroots sports development like the Haven Football Academy, urging the children in the academy to be serious and disciplined if they must do well in football.
The Founder of Daraya Sports, Adeniyi Segun, said that his outfit was involved in the project with a view to improve sporting activities in Nigeria, particularly at the grassroots, where the indigents live.
He pointed out that many sports academies in town were not affordable for children of the poor, stressing that only the rich could afford to register their wards in such outfits.
“We have come to Nigeria to reach out to the poor and assist them to realise their dream of becoming great footballers and also get educated.
“The long term goal of the partnership is to raise awareness for grassroots sports education and provide access to quality training for those that can’t afford it,” he said.
He assured the coaches of full support, and expressed optimism that the kids would represent
the nation in the next 10 years. (NAN)