I’ll always cherish my playing days at school, growing up in Dubai. Being part of a primarily expatriate college, we found it fascinating to play football against schools from across the country that we had never heard of. Teams would show up (often hours late) to our unevenly cut, unlit grass/sand pitches and we would have no idea as to their level of ability or skill. We would whitewash squads from Sharjah 10-0 on occasions, and sometimes be taught footballing lessons by unknown public school teams.
Many fun weekends were had at various hastily organized GCC-wide interscholastic tournaments in which you could find yourself lining up against an Omani British institution or a school team from the Saudi oil compounds. As haphazardly organized as these matches were, it was still a great experience for us all, with a few players I played alongside going on to play for local clubs Al Nasr and Al Wasl among others.
Times have undoubtedly changed since then. Youth football has been greatly boosted in the region through various initiatives, one of which kicks off this Saturday January 11th – The Dubai Schools Football Cup (DSFC) 2014. In response to the overwhelming feedback from schools all around Dubai, the tournament will be played at the excellent Dubai Sports City Football Academy under the expert guidance of former Real Madrid legend Michel Salgado.
‘Everyone at Dubai Sports City Football Academy is looking forward to the January 11 kick-off as we gear up for an exciting eight-week program’ said Salgado at the press conference launching the tournament. ‘The DSFC will get kids onto the football pitches where they will learn and practice healthy competition while developing their interpersonal skills’.
Of course, massive incentives for the young players to give their all on the pitch have been put in place, with Chevrolet, Emirates NBD and Fait Maison Cuisine signing on as corporate sponsors – providing prizes for the winners and participants. Over 100 teams of girls and boys from 50 schools in Dubai – featuring 1800 players – will compete for the grand prize, an all-expenses paid trip provided by Chevrolet to attend a Manchester United Premier League game at Old Trafford. Emirates NBD will provide the winners with a full-day football-training clinic delivered by Manchester United Coaches.
‘We believe that participating in the DSFC is in line with our ambition to celebrate the best that football has to offer and introduce exceptional opportunities for fans to immerse themselves in the game. It also celebrates a primary value that is very close to Chevrolet, that football can touch lives, provide opportunities and bring positive change to people in Dubai’ said Ahmed Sodoudi, Chevrolet Brand Manager at GM.
The Dubai Sports City Football Academy along with Inspiratus are organizing the tournament and managing all teams, which are organized in four categories: Boys U12, Boys U15, Girls U12 and Girls U15. All games will take place at Dubai Sports City from January 11 to March 1 2014 on its 12 FIFA approved pitches.
The tournament promises to be a step in the right direction for solidifying organized inter-school football ties in the city and potentially even beyond to other Emirates and the GCC. It will no doubt give Dubai youngsters a new platform to impress coaches at the Dubai Sports City Football Academy, and in accordance with journalists, sponsors and sportsmen present at the press conference, take us one step closer to unearthing a new Messi, Rooney or even Michel Salgado from the Middle Eastern region.