By Santokie Nagulendran
Alex Bunbury is known as one of Canada’s greatest ever football players; the striker appeared 65 times for the Canadian National team and had a playing career which took him to Portugal and the English Premier League.
Yet Bunbury was actually born in Plaisance, Guyana, and is now hoping to radically change footballing development in the country by building his very own Academy in Guyana, with the aim being to create hope and opportunity through both sports and academics.
Having left Guyana aged nine, Bunbury moved to Canada, ‘’Cricket was my first love growing up in Plaisance, I started playing football age 12 in Montreal, Canada, because of my older brothers’’ Bunbury reminisces.
After moving to Canada, Bunbury would go on to have an outstanding professional football career at club Hamilton Steelers, before eventually gaining a move to England, where he featured for London club West Ham United.
However, it was in Portugal where he spent the majority of his career, excelling at club side Marítimo between 1993 and 1999, winning the prestigious ‘’Foreign Player of the Year’’ award in 1995, granted every year to the best overseas player in the Portuguese Premier League. Bunbury also featured for Canada’s National team, scoring 16 goals, many of which in 1994 and 1998 World Cup qualifying games, and is currently 8th in the list of Canada’s all-time top scorers. To have a player born in Guyana achieve so much on a global footballing stage is truly remarkable.
Now aged 48 and retired from playing, Bunbury wants to give back to his homeland, and has begun plans to develop a multi-million (US) dollar , state of the art academy known as ‘’The Alex Bunbury Sports and Academics Academy ’’ which he hopes will revolutionise sports and educational development in Guyana.
Speaking on the project, Bunbury said the Academy will be, “Utilising athletics as a means to an end, preparing, supporting, and arming young people with confidence to embrace their surroundings and future with a sense of: hope, pride, belief and a foundation for success . This world-class facility with state of the art equipment will be designed for intellectual, physical and social education.”
Whilst a location is currently being decided on, Bunbury emphasises that, “the facility will be at a centralised “home” location for all demographics, especially those in the interior! The complex will consist of multiple offices for life-skills programmes, non-profit organisations, multiple after-school learning and study rooms, and an interactive learning and computer centre.
The primary athletic programme is founded on the sport with the highest participation in the world with no age, race or gender barriers….Football.”
Bunbury, aware that Guyana is a cricket-loving nation, also stressed that cricket will be incorporated into the academy and be a major part of the initiative, as well as football, track and field, and basketball.
Nor will the Academy be exclusive to young people either, Bunbury is clear in stating that Senior citizens and those with disabilities will also be catered for.
Not daunted by the monumental task he has set himself, Bunbury is hoping to launch the Academy once, “our feasibility, business plan, master plan and model is completed. The goal is to have everything in place to present to the public as soon as possible.”
Finally, when asked about a potential coaching role in Guyana, Bunbury, who has experience of working as a coach in the USA, said, “My number one priority is to bring the Alex Bunbury Sports and Academics Academy to my Homeland, however, nationally, I would like to help strengthen and develop our youth and senior level teams.”
Despite having left Guyana as a child it is clear from what he says that Alex Bunbury still has a great affinity for Guyana and considers it home. With the development of the academy in its very early stages, it is hoped that progress will move at a rapid rate and hopefully, the academy will eventually be a place that changes the lives of many youths in Guyana for the better.
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