Terry Kidd and his new City Football Club do not do things by halves.
Only launched last September, they hold ambitious plans to be Dubai’s lead academy and make the seismic step of turning professional within just 12 months – eventually becoming the first expatriate outfit to gain a historic place in the Arabian Gulf League.
This latter sphere has been the sole preserve of Emiratis since Al Nasr was founded back in 1945. But within a mood of merged teams, such as last May’s tumultuous amalgamation of Al Ahli, Al Shabab and Dubai CSC to form Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, the financial benefits of the untapped foreigners market appears alluring.
“That is the long-term goal,” says director of football and head coach Kidd, an ex-professional footballer with Aberdeen who is a 12-year veteran of the UAE football scene.
“Is it attainable in a 12-month cycle?
“I think we have to be realistic and respect where football is at in the UAE. There is a lot going on right now, with some pro clubs merging.
“We obviously have to meet the criteria, which will be extensive.
“Financially, we’d have to advance the funding to ensure we can create an infrastructure to coach the players for the next level and create an environment where they can compete at professional level, locally.
“That is the objective. We don’t want to fall into the pit where we become just another private, expat academy.”
CFC’s mandate is to unearth the next generation of professional footballers via elite training by FIFA-approved practitioners. Highly qualified UEFA ‘A’ and ‘B’-licensed coaches have been recruited from within the UAE and British football.
More than 350 kids have already come through trials. In total, the academy caters for boys and girls from the ages of four to 18.
Kidd is convinced his high-performance program will provide the gateway for the most-promising players to secure berths at professional clubs in Europe or spots in the United States’ collegiate system.
The City FC U-16 WHITE squad dug deep to pull out its victory over Du La Liga HPC U-16's. Nick Hupe, the U-16 WHITE's Centre Back shares his post match thoughts. pic.twitter.com/8fBjAu4880— City Football Club (@cityfcofficial) February 19, 2018
He said: “We kicked off in September, so we are still very young. The plan, vision and philosophy for the club is creating an elite environment that provides an elite level of coaching.
“The core focus is on high performance. We are expecting our players to train more and get more out of the programme, meaning it is not one-dimensional.
“We look at sports science and we go through the analytic side, giving players ownership.
“The end result is sending them to professional outfits in the United Kingdom, or even a collegiate direction in the United States. I have been taking kids to top Division 1, 2 and 3 schools.”
The goal of joining the AGL remains an eye-catching aspect of this plan. Scope for improvement is obvious, sparsely attended fixtures and increased financial losses showing change is required.
Overtures to the UAE Football Association by CFC have been met with a positive response.
“Yes, we have spoken to them,” says Kidd. “There is encouragement about new teams, but you have to start at the grassroots – let us get our little pyramid built, before we try to build an empire.”
Trials are offered per inquiry. Each child will be profiled, evaluated and assessed, before being placed in the most-apt band.
Charges are paid per term, with a scholarship scheme in place. Training takes place at various locations across Dubai.
For more information, visit www.dubaicityfc.com.
Friday’s hosts at Zayed Sports City come into the match on the back of a draining midweek 3-2 loss to Qatar’s Al Duhail in the 2018 AFC Champions League. This competition has added to their commitments as challengers in the top flight and Arabian Gulf Cup – with both teams also set to meet in next month’s semi-finals.
“We hope to exploit the fatigue that our opponents will have accumulated as a result of the pressure matches in different tournaments,” said Ali, whose side sit a distant sixth
Meanwhile, Al Dhafra boss Gjoko Hadzievski has declared he wants to see proactive players take control of their destiny against Al Nasr.
The Western Knights won for the first time since September last-time out, versus Dibba Al Fujairah.
“The game against Al Nasr is so important to us,” said Hadzievski.
“The players must provide a strong reaction and not wait for the opponent’s reaction.”
Friday’s final game sees champions Al Jazira welcome lowly Hatta.
The Boss dominated their tenacious Qatari opponents for large spells on Tuesday night, but could only secure a 1-1 draw after first-half penalties were shared between Berg and Morocco striker Abderrazak Hamdallah. In particular, the former was guilty of putting in an uncharacteristically wasteful display to ensure a second-successive stalemate in Group D.
Could belief now be a problem for the 2002/03 winners, with four games left?
“No, no – not at all,” replied Berg, who has struck an impressive 16 times in 23 run-outs since June’s €3.3 million (Dh14.9m) move from Greece’s Panathinaikos. “We know we are a strong team and we know we can do better than we did in this game.
“But still, we have a good chance. It is not about goals, it is about the points we need to make it to the next round.
“I think we have a good chance to do it, but we need the three points.”
Berg, 31, has proven a superb addition for Al Ain. He has thus far excelled where Nigeria front man Emmanuel Emenike, Brazilian striker Douglas and Saudi Arabia loanee Nasser Al Shamrani flopped since July 2015’s sale of Ghana record breaker Asamoah Gyan.
Experience of the Europa League and UEFA Champions League had been gained during previous stints at Hamburg, PSV Eindhoven and Pana. He is now enjoying continental football in Asia.
Berg said: “It is a strong competition [the ACL].
“All the teams are competitive and try to win the games.
Al Ain next month face a vital double header against Iran’s Esteghlal, led by their ex-coach Winfried Schafer.