Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Location: Atlanta, GA
|Posted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 3:58 am Post subject: Real Madrid's football school in Jamaica to bow into action
|ROSS SHEIL, Online Co-ordinator, Jamaica Observer
Saturday, January 12, 2008
As in any country, Jamaican children from deprived backgrounds often dream of escaping into
the kind of success enjoyed by football idols like Robinho, star of Real Madrid FC and the Brazilian
national team. The odds against them are high. But the dream of former national team goalkeeper
Aaron Lawrence to run a local football training facility could help them.
The Real Madrid Social Integration School, sponsored by the world's largest club and managed by
Lawrence, will use football training as a vehicle to raise levels of educational levels and
improve social values among participants - to qualify they will have to maintain a 50 per cent grade
average in the traditional education system.
The facility will be launched later this year on land donated by the Rose Hall hotel in Montego Bay,
having been announced in 2007. Catering to ages 6-12 years old, the initial phase will include 100-150
children from St James, Trelawny, Westmoreland and Hanover, with plans to expand to 350.
Older children up to the age of 16 could be included in the future.
Real will lend coaching expertise to the project and link it to their network of similar schools in Spain
and Latin America having been brought to Jamaica by Jesus Silva, Spanish Ambassador and
president of Spanish-Jamaica Foundation.
The foundation was formed by Spanish companies with local interests such as the Riu and Pinero
hotel chains and chose the facility as its first major project.
"It was a dream of mine from ever since I was a youngster to be able to help others because we
never had this growing up," said Lawrence, himself born in the second city, where he has been active
in coaching. "It will help them tremendously and get these youngsters out of the communities and prevent
them from picking up a gun. Instead, we want to make them part of something academically and in football."
He will be flying to Madrid in the coming weeks to learn more from the club.
Top European clubs are already placing greater emphasis on education within their centres of excellence.
It also helps aspiring footballers to secure employment elsewhere should they fail to become professionals.
"The difference between a good player and those who can make it into the European league is basically of
education; when the kids are coached and brought up in a proper way. They (Real) have been doing this
for ages," said Silva, interviewed at the Spanish Embassy at the Courtleigh Corporate Centre in
New Kingston this week.
Silva recounted a youth match when Real's arch-rivals Barcelona scored against them in an unsporting manner.
Real, having played the ball out, expected Barca to return possession from the throw-in in keeping with
football convention. Instead, they kept possession and scored.
Surprisingly the Barca coach then instructed his players to allow Real an equaliser.
"He said that it was more important to teach the children than winning at this stage; that they need to
understand there are other values because otherwise they will not be good players in the future,"
The ambassador is keen to stress the social aims of the facility rather than it being a centre of excellence -
although he acknowledged, finding a Jamaican Robinho would benefit Real by saving in transfer fees.
His attitude is shared by at least one Jamaican club, Real Mona of St Andrew, which prides itself on
youth development and instilling discipline. Mona assists its young players in winning college scholarships
to play football in the US, an approach that places their personal development over the club's
own league position, said club President and coach Peter Moses, himself a former Jamaican national team player.
"It (the Madrid approach) obviously fits into our philosophy at Real Mona, which is not just about football,
about using football to help establish certain qualities in young males like discipline and respect for each
other because we do facilitate people from different backgrounds and value the importance of academia
to distract them away from certain negative influences," said Moses
There could be further benefits to the school with the potential involvement of the wealthy
sponsors of the nine-time European Cup winners, said Silva. Real will also be giving technical
assistance to Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) coaches in a separate arrangement.
With the facility expected to cost US$500,000, costs have been kept down by the donation of professional
skills by companies within the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation. Costs could rise if expansion is decided upon
after completion of the first phase, which includes two pitches, classrooms, changing rooms,
offices and parking facilities.