Benfica plan to set up Jozi academy

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

LAUSANNE, Switzerland - Benfica, one of Portugal's soccer giants, are planning to spread their support base on the African continent by opening an academy in Johannesburg next year.

Sowetan can reveal that Zeca "Lollipop" Marques, who is running the Portuguese Football Academy, has been approached by Benfica to help them in the initial negotiations as he is familiar with the setup in South Africa.

Marques is also an assistant to Brazilian coach Julio Ceasar Leal at Absa Premiership club Moroka Swallows.

An impeccable source in Lisbon who attended Tuesday's game between Bafana Bafana and Portugal told Sowetan that an announcement will be made before the end of the year.

"Benfica spoke to Mr Lollipop, who is coordinating the whole deal from South Africa. They thought it will be a great thing to start their operations in Africa by setting up an academy to develop talent on the continent," said the source, who preferred to remain anonymous.

"I suspect Benfica were motivated by the deal between [close rivals] Sporting of Lisbon and Bloemfontein Celtic. There is a strong possibility that Benfica might also consider buying shares in a South African Premiership club."

Approached for comment, Marques was at first taken aback when asked about the Benfica deal.

"Benfica approached me in January when I was in Lisbon as a guest of the South African embassy to launch the 2010 World Cup campaign. We have been having a series of meetings on the issue," he said.

"They want to open an academy in South Africa, we are trying to see how best to do it."