Arsenal FC's French midfield star Patrick Vieira recently returned to the country of his birth, Senegal, for the first time in 18 years to promote an African football institute which will welcome young apprentice players from next October.
Football and education
The Diambars Institute is located in Saly, close to the Senegalese capital Dakar. Each year, the institute will take care of 48 children aged between 12 and 15. They will be trained not only to improve their football skills, which will hopefully see them become top-level footballers, but also educated.
The latter is designed to help the youngsters prepare for adult life, through the study of subjects such as geography and mathematics. The objective of the Diambars Institute is to use the passion of football and the influence of top players such as Vieira to help improve education levels throughout Africa.
Vieira – who helped France win the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™ - has been joined by several former and current players in the promotion of the institute. They include Vieira's French team-mate Marcel Desailly, the former French international goalkeeper Bernard Lama and the ex-RC Lens defender Jimmy Adjovi Boco.
The Arsenal captain says that football and education should go hand in hand. "We aim to change the dreams of our children - they will hopefully not just want to be famous…their dreams will be to be educated footballers," said Vieira, who was born in Senegal but left the country when he was seven and chose French nationality. "The message we are giving out across the nation is you have to go to school - basically education goes hand in hand with football - no education; no football."
The school is partially financed by the players, as well as by private and public partners, including the Senegal state authorities, who offered the land on which the institute is being constructed. Five football pitches are planned, including one made of sand and one artificial turf pitch, and the institute will also have facilities to accommodate players and guests, as well as a restaurant and other sports installations, including tennis and basketball courts.
Talent scouts are now scouring the west of Africa for the talented youngsters who will join the institute. Vieira promises that he will devote considerable time to the institute when his career has finished, and says that his return to Senegal – for the ceremony to lay the foundation stone – was an enriching experience. "It's very important to go back to one's roots to find out where you come from," he said. "I've learned a lot of things."
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