Harare – Spanish La Liga side Real Betis will open a football academy in Zimbabwe that will serve as a scouting base for not only the country, but the entire Southern Africa region.
Real Betis partnered with Harare-based talent management firm, Athletes Sphere Management (ASM), to open the football school.
President and CEO of Real Betis Academy Zimbabwe, Gerald Sibanda, told The Southern Times Sport that Los Verdiblancos entry into the region was a game-changer.
“Southern Africa needs to catch up with West Africa and North Africa as regards to competing at the Africa Cup of Nations and obviously qualifying more at the World Cup. West African and North Africa teams have more players who play in the European big leagues mainly because of exposure.
“The coming in of Real Betis ensures our players from youth level and grassroots level have an opportunity to be exposed to a high-level of football methodology for them to be able to then go into those football structures in Europe and make an impact in top leagues.
“The most important thing is that other top clubs in Europe will see that there is talent in Southern Africa that just needs to be developed. What we have been lacking are opportunities and these opportunities come from exposure,” said Sibanda.
Real Betis has said its objective is: “To launch a series of sports projects in the African country within the club’s strategic plan to extend its brand and methodology throughout the world, educate from football and transmit the values of the institution; (and t)o develop grassroots football in the area by implementing the Club’s methodology, as long as the evolution of the pandemic allows it.”
Sibanda, a former rugby player, said Southern Africa provided an ideal pool of untapped football talent.
“Real Betis had a vision of tapping into an unidentified market of Africa, they were trying to do a new thing in Africa. With most European clubs concentrated in West and North Africa they saw it fit to tap into the Southern Africa market.
“On our end as ASM, our vision is to ensure that the untapped markets of Africa and Zimbabwe must get those world class opportunities. We are very happy and humbled by the support we have received from every stakeholder of football in Zimbabwe and others within the context of markets in Southern Africa.
“Our mandate is not only limited to Zimbabwe and plans are already underway to extend our football school to other parts of Southern Africa. We are looking at South Africa, we are looking at good football countries like Malawi, Zambia and Namibia. We are looking at these to enhance the brand of Southern African football.”
Former Dynamos FC midfielder and assistant coach Murape Murape will be head coach at f the academy.