Nearly a year on since its opening a state-of-the-art sports park in Tanzania is starting to show real promise as Sunderland AFC’s Head of International Football Development discovered.

The JMK Youth Park, a multi-sport facility developed by Symbion Power and Sunderland AFC, officially opened to the Tanzanian public in October last year, and is now leading the way in developing young talent across Dar es Salaam.

Graham Robinson from Sunderland AFC visited the park this week to sit down with the coaches at the park to discuss forward planning and to see first-hand the developments at the park.

Graham said: “We held some great discussions and it was good to hear that player development was top of the sports park agenda and that all the coaches are keen to keep learning with many educating themselves with new trends from Europe.”

As part of Graham’s visit he also delivered training sessions to the JMK Park’s U16 Centre of Excellence squad.

SAFC's Graham Robinson delivering coaching session at JMK Youth
SAFC’s Graham Robinson delivering coaching session at JMK Youth

The JMK Park Elite Football Academy in Association with Sunderland AFC is divided between two groups, U14s and U16s, with players training four times a week with expert coaches and taking part in variable games against other academies, local teams and professional clubs.

Graham added: “I have been very impressed with the boys’ individual skills and technique but there is still room for improvement but with more games against strong opposition this will naturally happen.

“They are very eager to learn and attentive when given advice which is a fantastic starter point. I firmly believe the future is very bright for the park and Tanzanian football if natural ability can be unearthed in such a short spell since it opened, and I can’t wait to get back to support the players’ development and set them new challenges.”

The academy, which harnesses the knowledge and expertise of Sunderland AFC and its own successful academy, has since its started seen three of its U16’s team called up to Tanzania’s national U17 squad as they prepare to qualify for AFCON.

As part of its involvement Sunderland AFC provide the technical and practical support to the development of the park, which has seen thousands of youngsters already benefit from a joined up approach combining sport, education and community engagement.