Manchester City set to expand football philosophy throughout the Middle East

Alex Broun 18/02/2018
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Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are responsible for playing some of the most exciting football on the planet and now they are set to spread that free-flowing philosophy throughout the Middle East.

City Football Schools, who teach hundreds of young players from three years up every year to play the City way, have been running in Abu Dhabi since 2011 and now they are looking at expansion through the MENA region.

“There’s an obvious passion for football through the Middle East and north Africa region,” explains Simon Hewitt, head of football operations for the MENA Region at City Football Group (CFG).

“I think some of the success of the national teams in the region with a World Cup coming up – in particular Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco  – have always been hotbeds for football and now national teams are being successful, it’s exciting times for everybody in the Middle East.”

Currently, CFG are looking at expansion into the three countries noted above as well as Muscat in Oman and Kuwait.

“It’s a blank piece of paper,” says Hewitt of expansion plans. “We’re keen to look at a lot of countries across the Middle East.

“We’ve done a few activations over the last few years in some of these countries and we’re very keen now as a football group to look at what more we can do to impact the youth and get the methodology out to as many kids as possible.”

Simon Hewitt during one of the City Football School training sessions

Simon Hewitt during one of the City Football Schools training sessions.

You would expect a central part of Hewitt’s mission would be to uncover some future Raheem Sterlings or Kevin De Bruynes to don the sky blue – but the former goalkeeper says that isn’t the case.

“I wouldn’t say finding future stars is the main aim,” he says. “Any programme we run across the world its great to give access for every kid – whether they play football regularly or whether they play football every day and want to succeed as professional players.

“It’s more about giving young children opportunities in these countries and being associated with the brand and supporting the vast array of clubs we’ve got now (Man City, Melbourne City, New York City, Yokohama F Marinos (Japan), Club Atletico Torque (Uruguay) and Girona (Spain)).

“But if we did come across a hidden gem in one of these countries then that would be an amazing story to talk about as well.”

Hewitt’s main goal with every youngster who steps into a City Football Schools training session is to create a love of football – and that spirit runs right through the club’s activities from the first-team to three-year-olds.

“Our philosophy links directly to what the first team model looks like,” says Hewitt, “and obviously with the manager Pep Guardiola now it’s a very creative and attacking, fluid system.

“If we can teach kids to be expressive on a football pitch and not be scared of making mistakes then this creates confidence in kids.

“It gives them a self-belief and ultimately we believe this will create better players in the future.”

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the man behind the City Football Group, chats with Pep Guardiola

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the man behind CFG, chats with Pep Guardiola

And if the kids are ever looking for guidance on how to play the game all they need do is turn on the nearest TV.

“If you can mirror half of the things the First Team is doing with these young children that’s fantastic,” continues Hewitt.

“We try to link in with the players – so we look at what Leroy Sane’s qualities are, we look at what Sergio Aguero’s qualities are and we’ll give the kids ideas on how they can emulate some of those techniques and skills that the first-team players have.”

But even above mirroring their heroes, it’s about a simple love of the game.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world with Manchester City and the world over children have a passion for football,” says Hewitt. “They love to play, they love to win, they love to score goals, they love to make saves.

“Our main emphasis is that children have fun and enjoy the game – and I think that with anything in life, when you have that key criteria of having fun and enjoyment, talent can be nurtured better.

“Some children will play football for life, some children won’t play football for life but as long as when we come into contact with them they have fun and feel engaged then fabulous.”

And that neatly sums up the Manchester City way.

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Jose Mourinho insists Scotland should snap up rising Man United star Scott McTominay

David Cooper 18/02/2018
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Jose Mourinho has heaped praise on Scott McTominay and advised Scotland manager Alex McLeish to select the up-and-coming Manchester United midfielder before England do.

The 21-year-old has not looked back since his surprise debut towards the end of last season, making 14 appearances in all competitions this term having proven his worth to a manager that is not known for giving youth a chance.

McTominay has shown himself to be able and dependable, with Mourinho surprised by the lack of appreciation for a player he believes deserves international recognition.

Eligible for England and Scotland, the United boss said he would be straight on the phone to the Lancastrian midfielder if he was McLeish.

“We had some players that missed but we had some players that played so, so well,” Mourinho told MUTV after Saturday’s 2-0 win at Huddersfield in the FA Cup fifth round.

“Honestly, I think Scott deserves more than what he is getting.

“I think maybe it’s because he’s this kind of kid profile: a normal haircut, no tattoos, no big cars, no big watches, humble kid, arrive in the club when he was nine or 10.

“Last season he was almost leaving the club to go somewhere, who knows where, who knows in which division he would be playing now.

“He has now played already, I don’t know, seven or eight 90 minutes – he’s not play five or 10 minutes – in every competition: Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, Capital One Cup.

“I think the kid deserves a little bit more (recognition).

“And because it looks like England is missing him, if I was Alex McLeish the first thing I would do would be to [makes phone gesture] come to me.”

McTominay, attached to United since the age of five, has not represented England or Scotland at youth level.

Last November the 21-year-old told Scottish FA performance director Malky Mackay that he had yet to decide on his international future as he focused on kicking on at United.

McTominay is certainly doing that and is sure to be part of the squad that heads to Spain for Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg against Sevilla.

But questions remain over the availability of Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford for that game, so too midfielder Paul Pogba after pulling out of the starting line-up at Huddersfield through illness.

“I don’t know about Paul,” Mourinho said. “I said before the game I was told by the doctor this morning he was not coming.

“We had a good tactical session yesterday and then have to prepare a new team. Just as a curiosity, (Michael) Carrick was the one who replaced Paul.

“Paul was going to play on the left side in a 4-3-3. (Nemanja) Matic was going to play as a number six with Scott on the right.

“So, we moved Matic to the left, not his favourite position, and Michael to a positional six.

“Now is the time to think about Paul and to know what happened and why he didn’t feel good enough to play and can he be available to help us on Wednesday. Now is the time to wait for information.”

For Huddersfield, this is a time to re-focus on Premier League matters as they look to maintain their top-flight status.

“What makes me proud is that we showed what we are capable of even against a Manchester United side,” Town head coach David Wagner said.

“I had no doubt that this was possible because the players were on such a good momentum before the game and they are still on it even though we didn’t have the result. The performance was still there.”

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Everton stars hit the training pitch and meet fans at their Dubai camp

Sport360 staff 17/02/2018
Gylfi Sigurddson (c) training for Everton (all Everton).

Premier League-outfit Everton have taken advantage of a break in the football calendar and headed to Dubai for some revitalising warm-weather training.

Overseen by regular UAE visitor and manager Sam Allardyce, the players are being put through their paces at Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex.

Here, we have a gallery of the latest pictures.

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