Barcelona football club says it will open its first African football academy in Lagos, Nigeria.
Pau Vilanova Vila-Abadal, director of business and member of FC Barcelona management board, disclosed this during a visit to Akinwunmi Ambode, governor of the state, on Monday.
Vila-Abadal said FC Barcelona decided to establish its academy in Lagos due to the impressive population of the state, and the opportunity to share the philosophy of the team with the state.
Oscar Grau, worldwide director of Barcelona Academy, said “it was indeed a big honour for the club to establish its Academy in Lagos, as many of the big names in the team started from such Academy”.
He recalled that players like Messi, Iniesta, Sergio Busquet, Pique, among others, all started from such academy, and that the club has a unique methodology of instilling great virtues in footballers, apart from footballing skills and education.
He added that through the academy, the club also aims to raise excellent players for Nigeria.
Responding to the team’s plan on the academy, Ambode expressed readiness of the state to collaborate with the club to kick off the academy.
“This visit by FC Barcelona is coming at a point where I believe strongly that we have nothing else to say than to say we are committed into this partnership because we know the partnership will give us the first FCBEscola in Africa,” he said.
“I was made to understand that this is the first of its kind in Africa and so Lagos is priding itself as a major receptor of the next academy to be established in Africa.
“I know that this will create a very good platform for youth development, grassroots empowerment and also for the value of sportsmanship.
“We share the same values with FC Barcelona which are respect, courage, humility, social integration and community service. So, I just want to say that you have our blessing; you have our go-ahead.
“Whatever it is that we need to do to ensure that this project takes off as quick as possible as a government, we are hundred percent ready to support you in the interest of all of us.”
The governor said he believes “sports, entertainment and arts can actually contribute together to lift Lagos and Nigeria away from the problem of unemployment”.
Amaju Pinnick, president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), who was present at the visit, said the Confederation of African Football (CAF) had just approved the hosting of the first-ever Beach Soccer African Nations Cup in Lagos in December.
“The tournament is a major qualifier for the World Cup and eight best Beach soccer teams in Africa will converge in Lagos for the tournament,” Pinnick said.
“We know that Lagos has always played a pivotal role in redefining and rebranding Nigeria, which we are very excited about.”
The tournament will hold between December 10 and 23, 2016.