One of Northern Ireland’s most successful businessmen, Lord Diljit Rana has announced a partnership between Cliftonville Football Club and the Cordia Football Academy from his native Punjab in India.

The collaboration, which commences in October 2019, will see a group of young players from The Cordia Football Academy, of which Lord Rana is the Chairman, come to Belfast to train with Cliftonville FC’s youth academy in a bid to share skills, brush up on their game and make new friends.

As one of Northern Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs, Lord Diljit Rana is a world-renowned expert when it comes to harnessing teamwork to achieve success. Having arrived in Belfast in the early 1960s, through hard work and dedication, he has built a vast hospitality business empire from humble beginnings in a small city centre café.

Founder of Andras Hotels, Belfast’s largest hotel group, which includes the Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, two Ibis Hotels and Hampton by Hilton, he has had a lifelong commitment to providing opportunities and helping young people fulfil their full potential.

In his latest philanthropic project, Lord Rana plans to bring young people from both Northern Ireland and India together through a shared love of football.

Lord Rana personally established this renowned football academy in July 2017 at the Cordia Education Campus near his former childhood home at Sanghol, Punjab, India.

The Academy is committed to training young people to become professional football players by enrolling them in unique training programs and providing International coaching experience.

Lord Rana will help bring a group of under-14 students from the Cordia Football Academy to Belfast in October 2019 to attend Cliftonville Football Club’s youth academy. Here the students will observe the facilities, interact with local players, play friendly matches and enjoy the local culture.

Lord Rana said: “I am delighted to be working with Cliftonville FC given the club’s longstanding, respected status and its great work with local youth. I try to practice the sentiment of the city of Belfast’s motto, Pro tanto quid retribuamus, (In return for so much, what shall we give back?).

“I set up the Cordia Academy to help identify talented young sportspeople and give them the best chance of success. We open access by offering scholarships to young people from low-income families. I know personally that if an individual has the drive and talent and is given the right opportunities, they will flourish regardless of their starting point.

“I have applied this theory both internationally, and here in Northern Ireland through the charitable trust I set up over 27 years ago to build cross-community contacts and promote business opportunities between Northern Ireland and India.

“My observation over many years is regardless of where in the world they live; people are all fundamentally the same. They need support, and they need someone to believe in their dreams and to provide the right facilities and training to help achieve them.

“Those basic human requirements are the same, whether you are from Belfast or the Punjab. I believe bringing these young people together through the game will be educational, culturally-enriching and will broaden the minds and horizons of all taking part. This project will foster teamwork and encourage self-belief and build global connections for the future.”

Founded in 2000, Cliftonville’s Academy has 300 players mixed-sex players in various age groups, looked after by 60 coaching staff and volunteers.

Speaking about the dynamic new international partnership with Lord Rana’s organization, Cliftonville Chairman Gerard Lawlor said, “We are delighted to be working together with the Cordia Football Academy in the development of young football talent. We are really looking forward to their visit to Belfast in October. Such partnerships will continue to foster the unique friendships and opportunities football can give.”

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