BINDURA, ZIMBABWE-- Zimbabwe has started constructing a first-of-its-kind multi-million dollar academy to churn out professional sports persons who will be able to compete at a global

level, says President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The academy, being set up on a 100 hectare piece of land in Mashonaland Central province, will facilitate training in sports such as football, rugby, cricket, tennis and swimming, among others. The first phase of the project is budgeted to cost around 1.5 million US dollars and will be completed by the end of next year.

The second phase is expected to be completed five years later and will include setting up of an Olympic sports centre and a national sports museum.

Speaking at Wednesday's ground-breaking ceremony for the academy, which is being set up by the Bindura University of Science Education here, President Mnangagwa said sport had become a critical element of human social development which necessitated government support for its development.

It is fast emerging that sport is indeed an important facet in human capital development and a route to financial independence and inclusion for youth, he said. In the past, sport was casual, relaxed and more recreational. Presently, sport is much more organised, mechanized, marketed and administered as a business.

President Mnangagwa said sport was an important vehicle for enhancing social cohesion and acted as a catalyst for promoting hope, peace, unity and solidarity. It is my fervent hope that this facility upon completion will enhance the level and standard of performance of talented athletes and coaches and also accelerate the rate of sports development in our country, he added.

President Mnangagwa said the government would support construction of the sports academy by all means while encouraging development partners and the private sector to also partner the university in its endeavour.