Silverware for Spanish Soccer Schools has come in the Under-8, Under-10 and Under-12 leagues, marking its dominance in youth football tournaments across the country.
The first youth league of its kind in the UAE, the Private Academies League was formed in order to provide a competitive playing stage to private youth football academies in the region.
Also involved were the Double Kick Sports Academy, the Royal Football Academy Sharjah, Sport4All Academy UAE, the TFA Academy, Tigers Soccer Academy and the Pro Sports Academy, among others.
Two academies in association with Spanish Primera Liga clubs also feature in the league: FC Barcelona Escola Dubai and the RCD Espanyol Academy in the UAE.
“Three years ago, we’d just begun our journey towards transforming football in the UAE, and we’d never thought we’d reach such heights in such a short amount of time,” said former Real Madrid and Spain legend Michel Salgado who is director of football at Football Academy, Dubai Sports City.
Spanish Soccer Schools - campeones U8, U10 and U12s UAE FA Private Academies League. 3 de3 competiciones. Orgulloso pic.twitter.com/eQnrCKtJcK— Michel Salgado (@TheRealSalgado) May 8, 2016
“For us to be included in a pilot programme by the UAE Football Association which is geared towards developing sports in the region is a huge honour.
“The Emirates have invested plenty of resources towards the development of sports, and this next step shows that there is a very high level of inclusivity here for players from all walks of life.
“I would like to thank the UAE FA for their steps in this direction, and we cannot wait to be part of other youth development opportunities that they introduce.”
Al Jazira head coach Henk ten Cate has described his side’s President’s Cup clash with Sharjah as “do or die”.
It’s been a wretched campaign for the Pride of Abu Dhabi, who slumped to a seventh-placed league finish.
That followed on from an admirable second-placed finish last season under Belgian Eric Gerets.
Jazira were expected to go one better this season under returning hero Abel Braga, but the Brazilian was sacked in December following a miserable homecoming which yielded just three wins in 16 games in all competitions.
Dutchman Ten Cate has steadied the ship in 2016 and insists his team are determined to stake a claim for redemption in the competition.
“The team is very hungry, determined to do something,” said Ten Cate, who has steered Jazira towards a semblance of respectability since replacing Braga in December.
“The team wants to win something and this is our only way to do so.
“We are ready to play a tough opponent, who are well organised and structured. It’s the cup which is always different as it’s one game, a knockout.
“The way we play I don’t care, it’s about the result and we have to take a result. It’s do or die. Either we go to the semi-finals or we go home.”
Jazira signed off for the Arabian Gulf League season on Sunday with a 1-0 home victory against Al Dhafra, with only one foreign signing, Thiago Neves in the starting 11.
Kenwyne Jones, Park Jong-woo and Angel Lafita started on the bench, but Ten Cate claimed he neither favours his foreign or Emirati contingent, with only promising youngster Ahmed Rabeya not in contention for today’s game.
“I don’t look at foreign, local, old or young players, I will pick the best team,” said Ten Cate ahead of the game at Al Ain’s Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium.
“It can be with one, four or no foreigners. The ones who show best form in games and in training will play. I don’t have a preference for foreigners. I only look at who’s good, If you’re good you will play. The best players will play, the best team will play.”
The King narrowly avoided relegation, but Ten Cate is expecting a stern test, and singled Brazilian striker Wanderley out for praise.
The 27-year-old scored 15 goals in 26 AGL games this season.
“They have good people up front, especially Wanderley. He is very solid, works hard but can also create. He scored 15 goals and it is something to think about,” said Ten Cate, who said the fact Jazira have played more games than Sharjah this season will actually benefit his side.
“I will only see this as an advantage, playing more games,” he said.
“Since Sharjah last time we have improved a lot. We drew 2-2 in my second game but team has improved a lot. We’re positive about a good result but cannot underestimate them. We need to fight and work hard.”
Al Ahli chairman Abdullah Al Naboodah is “absolutely” convinced boss Cosmin Olaroiu will remain at the helm of the Arabian Gulf League champions next season despite an acknowledgement of some internal discontent about him.
Olaroiu, 46, has cast a shadow over the club’s celebrations of a seventh domestic crown since he dropped a bombshell about a possible summer exit after last month’s 2-2 draw with Bani Yas. This was followed by proclamations last Friday he would “never be somebody’s toy” and certain factions were averse to his continued employment.
Speaking after Sunday’s lifting of the top-flight trophy, Al Naboodah answered affirmatively the Romanian would “absolutely” remain in situ and went on to add the latest outburst was caused by opposition from a mystery figure – not himself – at Rashid Stadium against the fulfilment of a contract which runs until 2018.
He said: “I’ve seen (Friday’s) press conference and I’d leave him (Olaroiu) to answer that, because I know who he’s talking about, but I don’t want to say.
“The club position won’t change. Our reply was always that with Cosmin we have a two-year contract and that is what we are relying on in terms of the relationship between Cosmin and the club.
“In the past, not the last press conference but the one before, I think the comments the coach made weren’t understood by a lot of people. But he explained in the second that ‘it’s not about me leaving Al Ahli, it’s about other reasons’.
“I’ll leave the reasons for him to answer. It’s not my place to answer, but there are other reasons for him to complain about, which we don’t know what they are.”
The Red Knights – who have not scheduled any emergency talks with their coveted coach – breezed to a 5-0 triumph against sorry Al Shaab which saw them end the league campaign on a record 66 points. They meet the same opponents during Friday’s President’s Cup quarter-final, with Olaroiu looking to claim the sixth trophy of a glorious three-year reign.
A near-miss during his tenure was last year’s 1-0 aggregate loss to Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League final. Al Naboodah revealed growing aspirations mean becoming Asian kings for the first time is now a realistic aim when the team return to the competition in 2017.
He said: “If I look back a few years ago, for me the big, big challenge to overcome was the Champions League. Going back to that, after reaching the final and seeing how we compete in Asia and in the Champions League, I thought it’s not a dream any more, it’s actually a target now.
“We need to improve; it’s very important for us to improve. If you want to win the Champions League, you need to be a little bit better.”