DUBAI: Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas is viewed as one of the best goalkeepers to ever stand in between the pipes. Even though his storied football playing career was cut short because of health reasons, his life in the beautiful game continues.
The 40-year-old Spaniard launched the Iker Casillas Goalkeeper Training Center in Dubai on Wednesday as he aims to hone the skills of aspiring young goalkeepers and coaches from the UAE and beyond.
“This training center is like starting a new second life for me,” said Casillas, who is one of just a few players in the world to play in more than 1,000 official career matches.
“I have always dreamed of giving back to this sport which has given me everything and I have always wanted to open a training center dedicated to goalkeeping. There are very few specialist training centers for goalkeepers in the world and I am really pleased to launch this important project here in Dubai, a city where I have always felt welcomed.”
Casillas announced the launch of the training center during a press conference on Wednesday at the Dubai Sports Council. The center was established in partnership with Dubai’s Fursan Hispania FC, which is overseen by former Spain international Michel Salgado.
“The launch of the Iker Casillas Goalkeeper Training Centre in Dubai is great news for young goalkeeping talents and coaches from not just the UAE but around the region,” Saeed Hareb, the secretary-general of the Dubai Sports Council, said.
“Casillas has few equals in football history, and the fact that he has chosen Dubai to launch this specialized program for goalkeepers reaffirms Dubai’s position as one of the world’s leading centers for the development of sports talent and coaches.”
Casillas won a World Cup (2010) and two European titles (2008 and 2012) as captain of the Spain national team, along with numerous other titles with his professional clubs at Real Madrid and Porto.
“Our focus will, of course, be on creating goalkeepers, but more than that, I want this training center to develop good human beings because that is the most important thing,” Casillas said.
Hareb said Casillas and Salgado will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the training center, which will serve as a unique space for goalkeepers and goalkeeping coaches to expand on their skills and professional aspirations.
The training center in Dubai will also work with the Dubai Sports Council to develop UAE-specific programs, which include a weekly program for Gulf players, a goalkeeping coach program focused on the Middle East, and a separate program for the goalkeepers of Fursan.
Fursan Hispania FC will also scout for the best goalkeeping talents from the UAE and surrounding region, and recommend them for a full-boarding program at the Iker Casillas Academy in Madrid.