Sunderland's focus on Africa continued today as the club announced a partnership with Tanzania. This adds to the partnerships with Bidvest Wits of South Africa and Asante Kotoko of Ghana, as well as last season's sponsorship deal with Invest In Africa, and next season's with South African food supply titans BFS Group Ltd.
The partnership was officially initiated today with the visit of President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania to Sunderland to meet with club chief executive Margaret Byrne and owner Ellis Short amongst others. Speaking earlier today Byrne said what an honour it was to meet the President, and also spoke of what exactly the partnership would entail;
The first stage involves us working with Symbion Power to build a community-type academy, allowing many children to come and enjoy playing the game.
They will be able to play under floodlights and realise their dream of playing on football pitches.
The second stage involves us working together and Symbion and possibly other conglomerates to build an elite academy.
We will assist with the various models we use here at the Academy of Light and also with the knowledge we’ve gained from the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) project too.
This is a very proud moment for everyone; to be able to lift all of our knowledge and bring it over to Dar Es Salaam is very special.
We are delighted to welcome Tanzania to the Sunderland family, further enhancing our club’s relationship with the African continent.
This exciting partnership, combining football and community engagement, will enable us to share our expertise to help Tanzania develop an effective football infrastructure.
The Tanzanian President also spoke of his desire for his country to become a more prominent football nation, and praised the youth footballers from Foundation of Light programmes who had shown off some of their skills for the delegation.
Whilst Sunderland have announced a lot of partnerships in the past year or so, this one does sound particularly worthwhile. The club getting heavily involved with helping give children in Africa an opportunity to play organised sport is a good reflection on Sunderland's desire to be more than just a football team. Maybe this Academy will not produce us a South-East African Messi, but the aim of helping children achieve more from life is perhaps something even more important than football.