Wed, Mar 16, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Beckham launches his own football academy

AFP , LONDON

England captain David Beckham launched his own football academy in London on Monday but stressed it was about children enjoying themselves and not just about producing future stars.

The David Beckham Academy will open on the Greenwich Peninsula in East London as part of the multi-million dollar redevelopment of the Millennium Dome site during the summer.

A sister academy is also set to be unveiled in Los Angeles later this year.

There will be two full-sized pitches at the London complex, as well as other indoor training facilities, classrooms and a dining hall.

The venture will initially welcome 15,000 boys and girls aged between eight and 15, of all abilities.

Beckham, who made his name as a player at Manchester United before joining Spanish giants Real Madrid, said he'd been inspired by the example of Old Trafford great Bobby Charlton.

"The Bobby Charlton Soccer School was so important for me because it gave me an opportunity to have fun and learn as a young kid," London-born Beckham said.

"I always wanted to be a professional footballer and now I am in a position where I can create an academy of my own. I have grown up with football and to see the happiness that football brings to kids, for me that is the most important thing, that they can come in and learn with a smile on their faces," Beckham said.

Former Manchester United coach Eric Harrison, who helped bring Beckham through the ranks at Old Trafford, will head up the London academy.

"They will get fantastic coaching, the facilities are magnificent, and it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Harrison said.

Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of Dome redevelopers Anschutz Entertainment Group, said: "We have a unique individual in David who uses his status as a role model to impact on kids in a positive way."

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