Club kick start Symbion partnership.
A Sunderland AFC delegation, led by CEO Margaret Byrne, travelled to Tanzania last week as the club looked to kick start its football academy programme in partnership with global electricity giant, Symbion Power.
Ms Byrne, accompanied by Academy Manager Ged McNamee, Facilities Manager Peter Weymes and Graham Robinson from the Foundation of Light, met with senior officials from Symbion Power, Government ministers and representatives and civic dignitaries during the visit.
The Sunderland delegation viewed the proposed site for the first phase of the academy development, a community football facility in Dar es Saalem. They met with city officials to give them an overview of the academy project in detail, along with senior figures from the Tanzanian Football Federation to discuss the country’s long-term football objectives.
The club’s visit also coincided with Barack Obama’s trip to the country, where the US President visited Symbion Power to launch a five-year initiative intended to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, in partnership with African countries and the private sector.
President Obama also spoke at a forum for business leaders, which was attended by SAFC’s Chief Executive.
Speaking about the visit,Margaret Byrne said: “We had an incredible few days in Dar es Saalem. Meeting with the team from Symbion and seeing first-hand the proposed site for the new academy has been fantastic. There’s so much goodwill for the club and what we are trying to do out here, we have been welcomed by everyone so warmly.
“Meeting President Obama was an incredible experience and certainly not something I ever expected to be doing in my role as Chief Executive of the football club, but it shows how Sunderland is starting to make real headway on the international stage.”
SAFC is providing technical and practical support to the development of the football academy project, the first of its kind in the country. The project will see thousands of youngsters benefit from a joined up approach combining football, education and community engagement, harnessing the knowledge and expertise of Sunderland AFC and its own successful Academy.
His Excellency Dk. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Paul Hinks, CEO of Symbion Power visited Sunderland last month, witnessing first-hand the ground-breaking work of the club’s charity, Foundation of Light, as well as touring the club’s state-of-the-art training base, the Academy of Light.
Sunderland AFC has established itself as one of the most recognised English clubs across Africa in recent seasons. SAFC linked-up with Invest in Africa in January 2012, affording a springboard to the ground-breaking not-for-profit initiative to promote Africa as a leading investment destination and actively challenge misconceptions about investing on the continent.
Further developing its links with the continent, the club announced recently the BFS Group Limited as its new principal partner from season 2013-14. BFS Group is the main UK operation of The Bidvest Group Limited, which is headquartered in South Africa.
SAFC also became the first football club in the world to form a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation last season.