City Football Club (CFC) only launched in October but in the short span of time, they have already shown why they are one of the top academies in the UAE.
Their trophy cabinet already has silverware with their Under-14 side winning the UAE FA Academy League while their U-16 and U-18 sides were runners-up in their respective age groups.
CFC have various age group teams ranging from U-7 to U-18s on different programmes and while winning games will clinch trophies, so is sticking to the club’s philosophy of ‘preparing players for the next level of football’.
It isn’t just about turning up for training and developing their skills on the field but what happens off the pitch.
For instance, the Under-14s have various conditioning sessions as well as yoga followed by high intensity work on their speed and agility during the week. By Thursday, they will play small matches between themselves ahead of their competitive games on Saturday.
It’s a programme that is similarly followed by professional clubs and an important step for the budding footballers at CFC.
“The stuff that we do off the field is the biggest selling point for us,” said Adam Burrows, one of six coaches at CFC with more than 15 years coaching experience between them.
“We have got great facilities and coaches and a lot of academies have that here. Where we manage to be so successful in this period of time is all round it. The programmes we have mean the players are tested regularly and have gym sessions from 14 and upwards.
“We film the games and give progress reports on their performances. They will be able to find out how many touches the player has had on the ball and how much distance they’ve covered. It tailors the coaches for the individual need of the player. I think it’s with things like these that we’ve seen such a big progress so far with our players in a short span of time.”
A third place finish this season for City FC's U-14''05 squad. Our crew caught up with Arthur Schultz Saturday post-match, who spoke about the team's performance and his own performance during the season. #CFCpassion pic.twitter.com/wJrFq4zMUA— City Football Club (@cityfcofficial) March 19, 2018
Although being based in Dubai allows them to play in various competitions in the Emirate, as part of the players’ development, teams also go on tour.
The U-14 side travelled to England in March just 24 hours after competing in a two-day tournament in Abu Dhabi. As well as playing Bolton, Bury and Fleetwood Academy sides, they also reached two finals in England including the Manchester Super Cup. They also won the four-day Dubai Super Cup.
For CFC, testing against players of different cultures is crucial to see where they stand in their all-round game.
“The competition is good here but we want to bridge the gap,” added Burrows. “In Europe, the game is a lot more intense so we’re trying to replicate the UK model so when we do go over there, they can be used to the familiarity of what to expect.
“One of the issues in Dubai are the lack of competitions. We think with the programme we have allows the players to play a lot of football all the time.”
With players aiming to play in the highest tier of professional football one day, CFC also have strong relationships with top universities and colleges in the US with a group of boys going to the States in the summer.
Manchester City left everyone in awe by how they played in the Premier League title-winning season and with football continuing to evolve with different styles of play, it is something that CFC coaches embraces.
“The best thing about Dubai is you have a wide number of nationalities in your team,” said Burrows. “It’s important that we play attractive football that they enjoy watching. We’re embracing what is happening on the outside world but also trying to implement ways as teams want to play exciting football.”
Speaking on their aim of playing in the Arabian Gulf League, Burrows added: “That’s the aim for us, everything that we do here is trying to set up a platform whether it’s professionally playing football or getting a scholarship in the States or playing here in a pro league, that’s what we’re trying to do and help the players. It’s not about making sure how good they are today and tomorrow, it’s about where they can be in the future.”
The ex-Croatia defender’s 18-month deal is set to expire this season after arriving for Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr in February 2017.
But the 46-year-old told Dubai Sports TV that he will put pen to paper on fresh terms to extend his stay at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
“I didn’t sign but I have agreed with the club and everything is fine,” he said. “I will sign the deal in the coming days. There are no complications; everything is done and I’m happy to stay here in Al Ain with my players and the great fans.”
Mamic was speaking after Al Ain’s President’s Cup triumph after Ismail Ahmed and Swedish hotshot Marcus Berg scored in the 2-1 win against Al Wasl on Thursday night.
It was the second time that Mamic and his team got their hands on a trophy this season after winning the Arabian Gulf League with a game to spare last month.
7 President’s Cup Titles— Al Ain FC - EN (@alainfcae_en) May 3, 2018
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The Garden City club won’t have much time to soak in the celebrations as they take on Qatar’s league champions Al Duhail in the first leg of the AFC Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.
But he lauded his players for their fantastic achievement this campaign.
“I’m proud of the my team, they have done a great job this season. Our season isn’t finished and we have two more games and it’s not going to be easy. After these two big successes, I hope the team can find more power to play two very good games and beat strong team in Al Duhail. We can celebrate for a while and the players deserve this. From tomorrow, we start our concentration for the Champions League match.”
The Swedish striker continued his fine form by scoring his team’s second goal in the 2-1 win against Al Wasl which later proved to be decisive in clinching their seventh President’s Cup triumph.
It was the second piece of silverware for Berg after his side reclaimed the Arabian Gulf League for the first time since 2014-15 following a dominant campaign where they dropped points in just six of their 22 matches.
Berg’s latest strike was his 35th in 36 matches this season since his move from Greek giants Panathinaikos last summer and the 31-year-old says he could not have asked for a better campaign than this.
“I expect to win every game but it’s not easy to win two trophies and it’s been a long time since we won something,” he told Dubai Sports TV. “During the season, we wanted to win the two trophies we have.”
Ismail Ahmed opened the scoring for the Boss at Zayed Sports City before Berg doubled the tally in the second half. Ahmed went from hero to zero after being sent off and despite Caio Canedo’s late goal for Wasl, Al Ain held on for the win.
Berg admits his team didn’t play to the best of the ability but their success proved why they are the best team in the UAE.
“It’s been fantastic. I don’t think we played our best game today but we managed to score more than them and during the whole season, we proved that we are the best team and really deserve this.
“In every game that we played, we showed we had the quality to win games so I’m very happy for the team, club and fans.”
Berg and his team-mates will now turn their focus to the AFC Champions League where they will take on Qatar’s Al-Duhail in Tuesday’s first-leg round-of-16 clash.
Although he can look forward to the World Cup with Sweden next month, his only focus for now is giving his best for Al Ain.
“It’s fantastic to end the season like this but now we have two more Champions League matches before it ends but it’s been fantastic so far.
“The only thing I’m thinking about so far is with Al Ain. I know will go to Russia in the summer but when I play, I will only focus on my team and to win the game.”