By Mohamed Fajah Barrie
BBC Sport, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Bellamy's academy is the first of its kind in Sierra Leone
Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy 's football academy in Sierra Leone, aimed at developing young talents, is progressing well and Sierra Leoneans believe it has brought hope to the game in the country.
Already 11 young players, mainly under 14 years old, have been chosen and will represent the first generation of players enrolled in the Craig Bellamy Football (CBF) academy when it is officially opened in September.
The players are currently undergoing training at the Right to Dream football academy in Old Akrade in eastern Ghana.
They were selected as a result of a nationwide league and scouting programme. The league is comprised of 44 clubs, including four women's teams and a total of 1,680 players.
Bellamy visited the young players in Ghana and is pleased with their progress.
"I visited the boys in Ghana and I'm really satisfied with the progress they're making," Bellamy said on his recent visit to Sierra Leone.
"They are willing to learn, they're excited about learning and they're fast learners.
"What matters for me most is their education and they're doing very well in that area. The concept of education is first for me and football second."
The CBF academy is currently under construction in Tombo village, outside Freetown. It is divided into two phases.
Phase one is almost finished as a dormitory for 20 students, class rooms, apartments for teachers, coach and technical director as well as the canteen have been completed.
It remains a grass pitch which will be ready by September for completion of the first phase.
Bellamy is concentrating his efforts on his academy in the close season
Director of Craig Bellamy Football Tom Vernon said phase two, comprising additional classrooms, apartments and artificial turf is expected to be completed within two years time.
He added: "A Uefa 'A' license coach, Johnathan McKinstry, from Northern Ireland is coming over to Sierra Leone to serve as technical director of our academy.
"In our long-term plan, he will have to train Sierra Leonean coaches who in return will train the boys in the academy."
Bellamy has expressed satisfaction over the construction of the academy.
"I'm pleased from what I'm seeing so far regarding the construction of the academy. This is most satisfying trip I've had in Sierra Leone," said Bellamy.
Originally, the Sierra Leone government agreed to provide 25 acres of land but reduced it to 15 without any explanation.
Sierra Leoneans, including the country's sports minister, and Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) officials have complemented the CBF academy and they believe it has brought hope to the game in the country.
The Sierra Leone sports minister Dr Minkailu Bah told BBC Sport that the CBF academy is in the right place to develop football in the country.
"We wholeheartedly welcome the CBF academy to Sierra Leone because we believe it is the best way to develop football," said Bah.
"Football and education should go side by side and the game should be developed from the grass roots level.
"We're convinced the CBF academy will make an impact on Sierra Leone in the near future and that's why my government provided Bellamy with massive land."
The CBF academy is part of the solution to problems in Sierra Leonean football
Sierra Leonean football fan, Alimamy Turay
The President of the SLFA Nahim Khadi said: "The Bellamy football academy is good for football in Sierra Leone because I believe the game should be developed from grass roots level in the country."
Football fans have also approved.
"The CBF academy is part of the solution to problems in Sierra Leonean football," one fan, Alimamy Turay said.
"The country will soon begin to feel the positive impacts of Bellamy's efforts. Sierra Leone should be grateful to him."
Bellamy is expected to spend about $1m of his own money by the time he completes his academy and it's expected that sponsors will come on board to keep the academy running.
Already, the academy has attracted sponsors, such as the Security Support Group International (SSGI) in Sierra Leone, which has decided to contribute $300,000 within three years.
The package will include cash, engineering technical assistance and security.
Sierra Leone football has up to now lacked youth programmes, which is seen as one of the major factors that responsible for the recent decline of the game in the country.
But with the emergence of the CBF academy, which is the first in Sierra Leone, the future for the most cherished sport in the country looks bright.
You can hear more on a special edition of World Football on the BBC World Service, as Chris Mitchell travels to Sierra Leone for the opening of the Craig Bellamy Academy at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/wswf
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