Holiday Homes: We fly to the USA, where a new Ronaldo football academy is luring British families to buy in Florida

Gordon Miller

The Balmoral, from $345,500, Florida USA

Arriving to a fanfare of “Eye of the Tiger”, Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo (the one from the 90s and 2000s, not Real Madrid’s current star) rocked up in Central Florida to break ground at his latest R9 soccer Academy. While it’s his 14th such project, this one has a special selling point: it’s 30 minutes’ drive from Disney World.

The combination of Ronaldo and Mickey Mouse has proven too tempting for property developers who’ve made the new academy a marketing centre-point for their vacation homes resort, Balmoral at Water’s Edge, Haines City.

Under bright blue skies, a 30C temperature, and in front of more than 100 local dignitaries, the affable, now retired, FIFA World Cup Winner joked with the audience (both via a translator and in English) and revealed that although he lives in Madrid, he visits Orlando’s theme parks every year with his four children.

“Orlando attracts many, many international visitors, me included,” Ronaldo said. “At my academy at Balmoral we want soccer enthusiasts – girls and boys, local and global – to enjoy the facilities and practise their skills. R9 will create 20-30 jobs locally, and bring to the area international investment from those who come to play, and their families.”

And when they say international investment, they mean you. International buyers at Balmoral at Water’s Edge, which is set around two salt water lakes in 115 acres, are 45 per cent British, with the majority of the balance Chinese and Brazilian. The 24 homes in phase 1 were sold to private British investors off-plan and the completed first phase of 102 homes also sold out. Currently, 40 per cent of the second phase of 85 villas have been reserved.

A townhouse on sale at The Balmoral

A total of 245 villas will be built, with the completion of the entire resort of family homes in the Central Florida lakelands scheduled for July 2018, and the R9 academy set to open by January 2018.

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A further $5m has been invested at Balmoral at Water’s Edge, where house prices start from $345,500 for a fully furnished, three-bedroom house with a private pool. Amenities include a golf club style clubhouse with an al fresco restaurant and bar, gym and kids’ games room, water park and large pool, garlanded by palm trees, and an outdoor big screen for movie nights.

Each house comes with a pool

Garrett Kenny, CEO of the developer, Feltrim Group, said: “Our British buyers’ profile has shifted from pure investors in the first phase to a mix of investors and those who want to use their home for holidays and put it into the rental programme to earn a six per cent net yield.

“The link with R9 makes strategic sense as our sales focus is on the Chinese and South American markets where Ronaldo is a household name, and most Britons know him too. So it’s cache for housebuyers and a lure for holidaymakers, who can book their kids into the academy.”

Ronaldo’s business partners have identified Florida as a growth market - and Balmoral as a suitable venue – because it’s a hot-bed of soccer in the USA due to its large Brazilian and South American populations. Looks like it’s all kicking off.

R9 Academy at Balmoral at Water’s Edge: email or visit

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