Spanish La Liga side Real Betis has announced a partnership with local sports agency Athletes Sphere Management (ASM) in a marriage that will see the club opening its first academy on the African continent in Zimbabwe.
ASM is the brainchild of former Zimbabwe rugby star Gerald Sibanda and manages several local athletes and coaches in rugby, boxing and football.
The local agency's latest project with Real Betis is, however, set to be its biggest to date after receiving the endorsement of one of Span's biggest football clubs which has a history dating back to 1907.
Real Betis, through its charity foundation revealed Zimbabwe will become the latest country to host its academy after recently embarking on similar projects in China, Morocco, United States and Mexico.
"Real Betis and the club's foundation, reached an agreement with the Zimbabwean agency, Athletes Sphere Management (ASM) to launch a series of sports projects in the African country within the club's strategic plan looking to extend its brand and methodology throughout the world, while educating and transmitting the institution's values through football," Real Betis said in a statement on their official website on Thursday.
"As an initial step, Real Betis and the Real Betis Foundation will start operating from October, together with ASM, the first Betis Academy on the African continent, specifically in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital city, with the aim of developing grassroots football on the region by implementing the Club's methodology, as long as the evolution of the pandemic allows it."
The club added: "Real Betis and its Foundation have been working for years with the youngest footballers in Seville through its local Academy and have been developing over the last seasons an expansion plan, materialized with the launch of several sports programs all around the globe: Reno, Fresno, Lemoore (United States), Ciudad de Mexico, Toluca, Monterrey, Guadalajara (Mexico), Fez (Morocco) and Wenzhou (China)."
Rafael Muela, the general manager of the Real Betis Foundation emphasises the importance of promoting this kind of projects from a sporting point of view, but also from a social perspective, especially in the days that we are living today.
"In this exceptional situation, agreements like this one make us especially excited and fill us with optimism, since they show that both the Real Betis Balompie Foundation and its partners around the world, keep moving so that the youngest population can keep enjoying football".
ASM president and CEO Gerald Sibanda said he is delighted with the partnership which he believes will create opportunities for local footballers.
"I am extremely happy for this global partnership, bringing world class community opportunities to Zimbabwe. From ASM, we are looking forward to help growing Real Betis Balompie's brand in the region and seeing great football projects being birthed through this partnership," he said.
It is with great honour and I am so pleased to lead the new Betis Academy Zimbabwe. My blood is now green and white."
La Liga managing director for Southern Africa Marcos Pelegín said: "One of La Liga's most important stated objectives is to support football growth around the world. We are really excited for Real Betis and for the young Zimbabwean football players that will enroll in this program.
"Seeing how one of our Spanish clubs enlarge their presence in Africa is great news for everyone. We are looking forward to collaborating with the Academy in future projects".
Real Betis Balompié, S.A.D., more commonly referred to as Real Betis was founded on 12 September 1907.
It plays in La Liga, having won the Segunda División in the 2014-15 season. Real Betis won the league title in 1935 and the Copa del Rey in 1977 and 2005.