IT was described as an "historic" day for Welsh football, with Newport officially becoming the cradle in which our future sporting talent is nurtured on Saturday. The importance of the new £5 million Dragon Park, Spytty, was summed up by the presence of some true heavyweights of the game- UEFA chief and former French superstar Michel Platini, our own Ian Rush, Neville Southall and Chris Coleman, the current Wales manager. Mr Platini described the facility- which is designed to nurture the future Gareth Bales and Aaron Ramseys- as "beautiful" when he officially opened it. He joked: "I played once against Wales and lost", before adding: "Sport is all about giving people and communities opportunities. This does all that and more. It is magnificent and will preserve the future of Welsh football." Dragon Park will be used to train men and women’s squads, especially age group and youth. Local sides from the Newport area will also be able to use it. As well as having two premium grass pitches, it has a 3G artificial pitch and a state-of-the-art headquarters, which provides a base for the Welsh Football Trust. Chris Coleman described it as "one of the most important advances in the history of Welsh football", saying Newport is the ideal location. He said it is comparable to the facilities enjoyed by footballing heavyweights such as France and Spain, adding: "I’ve been pushing for this for a long time. It’s a super spot, the right position." The official opening ceremony was led by commentator Ian Gwyn Hughes, who called it a "historic" day for Wales. Investment has included £2 million from UEFA and £750,000 each from the Football Association of Wales and Sport Wales. Newport City Council has also played its part, providing a 125 lease on the land at Newport International Sports Village. But, council leader Bob Bright said Dragon Park is likely to grow even bigger. Cllr Bright said it will bring many benefits for the city such as identity and helping to grow the economy. He said: "The city council has been involved in a programme for the last 10 months to drive the city forward and one key element is sporting prowess." Cllr Bright cited the Ryder Cup, plus the area’s rugby and football teams and said talks have already started about expanding Dragon Park further. * The performances of Newport County were also noted, with First Minister Carwyn Jones paying tribute to a "fantastic’ year for Welsh football and saying he wanted to see a Welsh team in League Two next season. He said diplomacy meant he couldn’t say if he’d prefer to see County or Wrexham there, but Mr Gwyn Hughes shouted out "Wrexham", making his allegiances clear. Fellow North Walians Ian Rush and Neville Southall will also be cheering for their nearer team. But, Mr Southall paid tribute to the "loyal" County fans and said both clubs deserve to meet each other in a Wembley play-off final.
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