To coincide with the 50th anniversary of George Best’s debut match for Manchester United 50 years ago Belfast Metropolitan College and the George Best Foundation have recognised this significant anniversary by launching the George Best Foundation Academy.
The Academy – launched on Friday – is formed of over 60 players aged 16 to 18 and focuses on the academic and athletic development of these up and coming footballers.
This investment in the future football talent in Northern Ireland will help to sustain the sporting legacy of one of the region’s most famous sportsmen, George Best.
The young players will benefit from support and funding from the George Best Foundation as they undertake professional football training, playing in local leagues and against prestige academies all over the UK, whilst studying for a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport (Performance and Excellence).
The George Best Foundation Academy at Belfast Met will support students over three teams, giving each player the opportunity to compete in domestic league and cup competitions during their structured coaching curriculum. The new Academy replaces the Belfast Met Football Academy, the first full-time football academy in Northern Ireland which launched in 2011.
The sponsorship will help to provide a development pathway for elite players to progress from grass-roots football to professional contracts or athletic scholarships.
Marie-Thérèse McGivern, Principal and Chief Executive of Belfast Met, welcomed the launch of the Academy: “Belfast Metropolitan College is dedicated to playing an important role in providing a high quality educational environment alongside a structured training programme for our future athletes. Sponsorship from the George Best Foundation will benefit our young learners greatly as they continue to develop their academic potential whilst progressing their natural athletic talent.
“The evolution of the Football Academy to the George Best Foundation Academy at Belfast Met is testament to the tremendous achievements the players and coaches have achieved since starting just two years ago. With a number of our student players currently being monitored by professional clubs in the UK and others obtaining international recognition through their debuts for Northern Ireland Youth teams, we are excited to see what the future holds for our newest recruits.”
Barbara McNarry, Patron of the George Best Foundation, continued: “It is clear to see there is so much potential in the young players at Belfast Met, so we are delighted to support Northern Ireland’s future football talent by supporting the George Best Foundation Academy. Encouraging the young Academy players to develop academic, life and leadership skills through the power of football and social inclusion is vitally important in order for them to fully develop and understand their individual talent.”
Jim Magilton, Elite Performance Director at the Irish Football Association, added: “The benefits of sport reach far beyond the impact on physical well-being of individuals, so the value of associated educational benefits should not be underestimated. It is a great advantage for players to take what they have learnt in the classroom onto the pitch as they will have a greater understanding of not only the game of football, but how they play as an individual and as part of a team. Academic learning as part of an athletic programme can have such a positive impact on young players and greatly help with their future career prospects.”