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High praise

Minister of Sport Stephen Lashley has praised the Digicel Chelsea Football Academy idea, and has challenged local stakeholders to continue to maximise the economic benefits offered by sports.

He was speaking at Kensington Oval today at the launch of the Academy programme that will see 39 of the top young footballers receiving week-long training experience by some the world’s best youth coaches from the Chelsea Football
Club Foundation.

The academy will run from November 11-16 at the Oval, and will involve morning and afternoon sessions, with a round-robin tournament on Saturday set to climax
the initiative.

Lashley said sports like football had the potential to raise awareness on social issues and empower young people to become wholesome citizens. However, he said the economic side of sport was just as important to countries like Barbados.

“But there is the economic side to sports, both at the national and individual levels.   This is premised by the fact that we are focussed in Barbados on transforming
sports into an industry in its own right,” Lashley said.

“What is clear is that sports continues
to broadened the category of career choices as professional leagues aligned to specific sports have been inaugurated across the world. In the area of football, we only have to look Barclays Premiere League and the opportunities provided to pursue a livelihood involving the sport.”

He continued: “The economic aspect of sport, however, cuts across some sectors. The one that readily comes to mind is that of tourism. In this regard, sport provides a promotional activity for that sector leading to what is known as sports tourism.

“This is where sporting activity is economically beneficial with respect to spend directly or indirectly on things such as hotel accommodation, meals and transportation to name a few areas.  I make the call therefore for all relevant agencies to work together to maximise these benefits.”

The participants in the week-long sessions where chosen following trials and the Digicel Kick Start Clinics earlier this year staged earlier this year.

James Wynne, Digicel’s group head of sponsorship, said he believed the Academy would be a transformational experience
for the young footballers.

“As part of our commitment to the development of football throughout the region, we are thrilled to be bringing together the region’s top young footballers for this week-long programme of world-class coaching,” Wynne noted.

“We hope to deliver a great life experience for these boys. They hail from many different counties and cultures but football is universal and here at the Academy they will have an opportunity to work together to hone their skills and develop
as individuals.”

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