Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
LA LIGA Southern Africa managing director, Marcos Pelegrin, is expected in the country tomorrow ahead of the launch of the landmark global partnership between Athletes Sphere Management and Spanish top-flight league side Real Betis.
The ground-breaking partnership, which will also mark the official launch of the Real Betis Academy Zimbabwe, will be unveiled in Harare on Friday.
Government have since given their approval to the project, which will potentially earn the country millions of dollars through the sports tourism business sector, when it eventually peaks.
Athletes Sports Management, through their director Gerald Sibanda, a Sables and Cheetahs legend, have signed a Memoradum of Understanding with Real Betis with the first step being the setting up of Real Betis Academy in Zimbabwe.
The nursery, which will take on board players between the ages of 8 and 18, will be overseen by Real Betis technical director, Juan Parra, who is scheduled to come and work in Zimbabwe early next year.
Former Soccer Star of the Year, Murape Murape, is the head coach of the academy with Highlanders legends Johannes Ngodzo and Gift Lunga (Jnr) coming in as the first and second assistants.
Tichaona Diya and Philemon Mutyakureva are also on board assistant coaches, in the academy whose medical side will be overseen by sports medicine expert Nicholas Munyonga.
Grant Mitchel will help out in fitness training.
But, it is the presence of Pelegrin, who will be accompanied by his assistant, Enrique Suay at the launch, which is expected to spice up an already bumper occasion which will see top Government officials attending.
South Africa Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mphakama Mbete, and his Spain counterpart, Santiago Gomez-Acebo, are also expected to grace the occasion.
Sibanda confirmed Pelegrin will attend the launch.
“Yes, it is my pleasure to announce that Marcos (Pelegrin) will officiate at the launch of the global partnership between Athletes Sports Management and Real Betis in Harare on Friday,’’ said Sibanda.
“He will be accompanied by Suay and we are very excited by that development.
“I think we have talked a lot about the Real Betis Academy in Zimbabwe. It is now the time for it to become reality.
“The coming in of Pelegrin, himself, is confirmation of the magnitude of the development.”
Sibanda said the Real Betis Academy in Zimbabwe will have to unlock economic potential the game has to offer in the country.
“Besides sports tourism, we, at Athletes Sphere Management, believe that football has the potential to transform, not only individuals, but the economy at large,’’ he said.
“The academy of this magnitude, with top-notch expertise will, obviously, produce great players who the country will export.
“It is high time we start taking sport seriously as it has the potential to transform us for the better.
“The coming in of Pelegrin, and other officials, will obviously create key developments in terms of strategic partnerships and, the fact that there will be top officials from the Government, also means that there is great potential for everything.
“Ultimately, Real Betis will have its footprint across the African continent, starting of course, with Southern Africa.
“It’s only a matter of time but, two years from now, we will be talking about even greater developments in terms of the game.”
He said the Real Betis Zimbabwe Academy will play against European junior teams like Chelsea, Real Madrid and Juventus.
“There is great opportunity for the youngsters to get that much-needed exposure.
“We will be playing against teams such as Juventus, Chelsea and Real Madrid. That way we will be marketing the players, the brand Real Betis as well as brand Zimbabwe.
“We are headed for exciting times so to speak. There is a chance for every opportunity and we will utilize that. Look, we will have experts from Real Betis who will technically and tactically drill our players into becoming competitive stars.
“All our local coaches will also be moulded by Real Betis and they will be certified by the team. So far, Murape has already started the induction lessons and he will be given the certificate to coach and all the others will follow suit.”
All the coaches will also get time for attachments at Real Betis.
He hinted there was also a possibility the Real Betis senior team will visit Zimbabwe as part of their pre-season preparations next year.
After the launch, Pelegrin will host a watch party at a Harare hotel with the Real Betis versus Elche match the highlight of the day on Sunday.
He is also expected to visit several resort areas before flying back to his base in South Africa.