Featuring some of the best players in the world, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, Real Madrid are consistently at the top of their game in the Spanish La Liga and the European Champions League.
Now the footballing superstars have turned to Croydon in the hope of finding and developing world class football stars of the future.
In conjunction with The Cedars School, an independent boys’ school in Lloyd Park, the Real Madrid Foundation have established their first football school in the UK.
In a statement, The Real Madrid Foundation said: “The aim of the project is to support children and young people by offering them activities to develop their skills, both in sports and relational and social integration.”
The Croydon project was opened on March 22 by Real Madrid club legend Emilio Butragueño, who played for Madrid in the 1980s and 1990s. He scored 123 goals in 341 games for Madrid and appeared in two World Cups for Spain. Butragueño is now the director of institutional relations at Real Madrid.
He has overseen similar projects that have been set up in 75 countries around the world involving more than 50,000 potential footballing stars of the future.
The project has been set up in conjunction with Football For Unity, who “aspire to establish sustainable legacy projects related to football that promote unity amongst young people around the world”, and the Kinetic Foundation (set up in the wake of the 2011 London Riots), who are to run the football school in tandem with Real Madrid.
Speaking to the SWLondoner, Judy Wallis (club welfare officer at Kinetic) said: “It’s lovely to see such a huge club being so proactive in their foundation to put something like this in an area such as Croydon.
“Kids can turn up and play at the playing field at the back of the school and it’s a great opportunity for kids to be proactive, learn football and learn the discipline of playing a sport.”
The educational trust, Parents, Children and Teachers in Partnership runs The Cedars School and was involved in setting up the link with Real Madrid.
Speaking to the SWLondoner, their CEO Matthew Sherwood said: “Croydon is the ideal location because of the local need and the presence of suitable partners to operate the project at ground level.”
Children at risk of exclusion will be specifically targeted with the project aiming to provide them with education in values through sport.
Sherwood added: “An End Child Poverty report identified three local wards as among the most deprived in London – Fieldway, Broad Green and New Addington.
“We are reaching out to schools in these areas to help us identify who will benefit the most from participation in such a project.”
This continues a developing football lineage in Croydon, which has birthed former England national team manager Roy Hodgson and Crystal Palace winger Wilfred Zaha, among others.
The free football sessions are on Saturday mornings between 9-11am at The Cedars School and are led by coaches trained by Real Madrid.