Dubai football academy opens possibilities for UAE footballers in UK and US

Three months ago a new youth academy launched in Dubai called City Football Club Dubai which hopes to give UAE youth a chance at making it big in the UK and US. (Provided)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Dubai football academy opens possibilities for UAE footballers in UK and US

DUBAI: The route from the UK to Dubai is a well-traveled one for footballers at this time of year.
In the past week, the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Celtic have landed in the UAE for warm-weather training. There will inevitably be more to come in the coming weeks.
Rarely, however, has the talent headed in the other direction.
European clubs are happy to take advantage of the UAE’s reliable weather and impressive training facilities but when it comes to mining young talent, the Gulf state is simply not on their radar.
Seventeen-year-old Andrea Borg provided a potential watershed moment last April. The attacker, born in Dubai and educated at the city’s GEMS Wellington School, made his first-team debut for English League One side Peterborough United.
He followed in the footsteps of goalkeeper Fabian Spiess, who played a handful of games during five years at Notts County between 2010 and 2015 after moving from the UAE.
They are the exception not the rule so far, but this could be about to change.
Three months ago, a new youth academy launched in Dubai with lofty ambitions. City Football Club Dubai is promising genuine pathways to professional football in the UK, or collegiate soccer in the US.
Terry Kidd, a former professional footballer for Scottish side Aberdeen, is City FC’s director of football. He believes the newly formed club can provide the missing link between Dubai’s aspiring players and a future career in the sport.
“It’s all about setting our players on a long-term trajectory,” Kidd tells Arab News. “This is football as an objective, not just an activity.
“The appetite was there in the UAE for a high-performance academy that has the look and feel of a professional club and we’ve responded to that demand.”
Like professional academies in Europe, players on the elite program — from U-8s to U-18s — attend five sessions a week. They have access to innovative training technology, and regularly receive bespoke video and text analysis packages.
Three months ago a new youth academy launched in Dubai called City Football Club Dubai which hopes to give UAE youth a chance at making it big in the UK and US. (Provided)

“This sports science approach isn’t about gimmicks,” Kidd explained. “We want players to engage with their performance. We are breeding an elite environment.
“Our coaches and staff have worked at professional clubs and have the dressing room experience, the understanding and appreciation of the small margins that make a difference.”
Football academies are big business in the UAE, with the likes of Barcelona, Juventus and Arsenal among those to offer “Soccer School” experiences to expatriate and Emirati youngsters alike.
It is a lucrative, but saturated, market and those able to trade on the name of a professional parent club unquestionably have an advantage.
But while these programs are designed primarily to build revenues, Kidd insisted City Football Club — no relation to the Premier League leaders — are dedicated to unearthing Dubai diamonds.
“Club-affiliated academies are run in a very black and white manner; they are commercial driven businesses that are all about attracting numbers.
“Our model is about identifying and nurturing talent. Our infrastructure and network is setting these players up for a clear future in the game. If a player leaves us at 14 to go to an English club, we will view that as a major success.”
In April, City FC will test themselves against the best. A UK tour will see the club compete in the Manchester International Super Cup against a host of professional academies.
The piece de resistance, though, is a trip to Manchester United’s Carrington training ground to face the Red Devils’ youth teams.
It represents a fantastic opportunity for City FC’s players but it will not be the first time they have taken on professional clubs. UAE sides Al-Wahda, Al-Jazira, Al-Shaab and Al-Nasr have already been opponents and City FC have enjoyed plenty of successes.
The competitive nature of these fixtures has given Kidd confidence that phase two of the City FC plan — to turn professional and compete in the Arabian Gulf League — is not just a pipe dream.
“The long-term goal is very much to play in the UAE professional divisions,” Kidd says. “But first we need to get a stable infrastructure in place and build the brand, the recognition of City FC.
“After the merger of Al-Ahli, Al-Shabab and Dubai Club last year, we know that the UAE FA don’t want more clubs folding. They want new clubs and we certainly have the desire to be one.
“For now, though, we are a great sparring partner for the AGL clubs — we bring a competitive, high-intensity football that challenges their players. The clubs like that and for us it’s a fantastic development tool.”
City FC Dubai is still in its infancy but at a time when rumors of further club closures in the AGL are rife, it is heartening to see a new door opening in UAE football.


Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 to win Champions League

Real Madrid celebrate winning the Champions League with the trophy. (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)
Updated 25 min 27 sec ago
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Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 to win Champions League

  • Real Madrid is the first team to achieve that feat since Bayern Munich in 1976. This is their fourth title in five years, and their 13th overall.
  • Jurgen Klopp’s and Liverpool’s own evening was marred by the loss of a distraught Mohamed Salah to injury in the first half, the Egyptian coming off half an hour in having damaged his shoulder.

KIEV, Ukraine: Gareth Bale’s eye-catching scissor-kick helped Real Madrid to a third successive Champions League title on Saturday with a 3-1 victory over a Liverpool side thwarted by a pair of goalkeeping blunders and Mohamed Salah being forced off injured.

Bale’s jaw-dropping overhead kick put Real 2-1 up moments after his introduction, following a dramatic start to the second half in which Karim Benzema gave Real the lead as a result of a Loris Karius howler.

Sadio Mane had briefly restored parity, but Bale put Real in front again and then made it 3-1 late on with a long-range strike that the unfortunate Karius could only punch into the net.

Jurgen Klopp’s and Liverpool’s own evening was marred by the loss of a distraught Mohamed Salah to injury in the first half, the Egyptian coming off half an hour in having damaged his shoulder.

This was not to be Salah’s night, with Real allowing Zinedine Zidane to become the first coach ever to win the Champions League three years in a row.

Madrid is the first team to achieve that feat since Bayern Munich in 1976. This is their fourth title in five years, and their 13th overall.

Cristiano Ronaldo has now won five in his great career, but even he could not argue that this was Bale’s evening.

The Welshman had been tipped to feature in the Real starting line-up but in the end was left out for Isco — just as he had been in the final win over Juventus last year — before making an emphatic impact as a substitute.

For Liverpool, this game will be remembered for the disaster that befell goalkeeper Karius in the second half, and for Salah’s tears as he departed the pitch at the NSC Olympiyskyi.

The Egyptian hurt his left shoulder as he went down in a challenge with Sergio Ramos in the 25th minute. Five minutes later he made way for Adam Lallana.

His presence at the World Cup could now be in doubt, as could that of Dani Carvajal — the Real right-back came off with a hamstring injury before the interval.

Those injuries temporarily took the sting out of the game after an enthralling start, with Liverpool on top.

It had been uncomfortable for Real, but after Salah departed, they sensed their chance. They even had the ball in the net in the 43rd minute, only to be denied by a marginal offside call.

Ronaldo’s header from Isco’s cross was parried by Karius, and Benzema turned in the loose ball, but the Frenchman had come from a fraction ahead of the last defender and the flag came up.

If that was a let-off for Liverpool, they were their own worst enemies at the start of the second half.

Isco struck the bar after Lallana diverted the ball into his path, before Benzema opened the scoring in the 51st minute.

It was a moment of unbelievable carelessness from Karius, who attempted to roll the ball out to the nearest red shirt only for Benzema to stick out a leg and send it trickling into the net.

Klopp’s side really could have let their heads drop, and yet they were soon back level, Mane turning the ball in after Dejan Lovren headed down James Milner’s corner.

But their renewed hope was crushed upon the introduction of Bale.

The Welshman had been on the field barely two minutes when he met Marcelo’s cross from the left with an improbable leap, back to goal, 15 yards out, to send an overhead kick on his left foot arcing over Karius and in.

Such a strike deserved to be the winner, although it was his long-range shot that beat the embarrassed Karius in the 83rd minute that made sure of the victory.

Mane hit the post for Liverpool in between Bale’s strikes, but they will have to wait a while yet before winning their sixth European Cup.