SAFC stars of the future could hail from Tanzania, thanks to a ground-breaking new partnership.
The club is lending its expertise to the East African nation, with the creation of a football academy programme which will nurture the sporting talent of the country’s youth.
President of the United Republic of Tanzania, His Excellency Dk Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, met with SAFC chairman Ellis Short and club chief executive Margaret Byrne for a tour of the Stadium of Light and Academy of Light today.
They saw how the club’s facilities could help at the Tanzanian academy, which will be built by global electricity giant Symbion Power.
The president said: “It’s always been my dream to see Tanzania become a major football nation.
“The people of Tanzania love football more than any other sport, but unfortunately we’re not doing so well at it.”
The president said he had been inspired by the budding footballers he saw from the Foundation of Light youth programmes who showed off their pitch skills for the African delegation.
He added: “Seeing the talents of prospective footballers today, I believe this is the way for Tanzania to go.”
During the tour, plans were unveiled for the building of a community football facility in Dar es Saalem, the largest city in Tanzania.
The next phase will see the creation of an elite academy programme and facilities to support Tanzania in the development of young footballers.
SAFC has become one of the most recognised clubs across the African continent in recent seasons,thanks to a number of initiatives such as its links with Invest in Africa and becoming the first football club in the world to form a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Speaking to the Echo, Margaret Byrne, who will be part of a SAFC delegation who will visit Tanzania next month, said: “Invest in Africa last year catapulted us into certain areas where we were able to form various partnerships and build links in countries as well as with Symbion Power.
“It’s all about people recognising the club and being able to develop players at a young age.
“Ultimately, we would like the whole continent to know about SAFC.”
She added: “It’s been a great privilege to have the president come here to Sunderland.”
Ellis Short said: “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.”