It’s not everyday pupils get to enjoy training sessions at some of England’s biggest clubs but that’s what happened to a group of aspiring footballers at Dubai English Speaking College (DESC).
Thirty-seven boys and girls travelled to England for DESC’s first-ever junior football tour where they enhanced their skills and knowledge over a series of matches in the eight-day trip.
Their itinerary saw them take to the field at Liverpool’s academy at Kirkby before making the short trip across Merseyside for a session at Everton’s Finch Park facility. They then travelled to Bolton Wanderers for another class.
And while those memories will certainly be cherished, so will their stadium tours of Liverpool’s ground – Anfield, Manchester United’s Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium, home of the Premier League winners Manchester City.
On top of that, they also attended the Championship fixture between Sheffield United and Preston North End where the visitors prevailed 1-0 in an entertaining encounter at Brammall Lane.
They then put their knowledge and skills of what they learnt to the test as they competed against local school teams in the north west of England.
Although the rain and wind didn’t do them any favours, DESC put on a number of spirited displays in their three matches. Their Under-13s side, captained by Max Bleakley, won two games out of three with a 2-1 win over Christelton High School and 5-1 triumph against Bury Grammar School.
Their U-14s, led by Yacoub Basweidan, also triumphed in two games beating Christelton 1-0 and Bury Grammar School 6-0. Their girls’ side, skippered by Lauren Hibbert, drew 5-5 against Wilmslow before thrashing Bury Grammar School 7-1.
DESC’s head of football Paul Barratt was impressed with the quality he saw. “The students had a trip of a lifetime over the eight days in the UK, getting a real insight into professional academy systems and understanding pathways which could be viable for our talented footballers,” he said.
“In our DESC football programme, we are very keen to develop a student’s personal characteristics along with their footballing ability; the opportunity to tour overseas is a valuable learning experience and of course, very enjoyable.”
As part of the GEMS Sports Series, 637 students across GEMS Education schools in the UAE and Nairobi participated in the third edition of the GEMS Swim Cup in Dubai.
Held at the Hamdan Sport Complex, it was the first time that GEMS Sports Series hosted international students where 24 pupils from the Cambridge International School, Nairobi competed.
Among the winners was Marwan Kashkoush. The 13-year-old student won the 50m freestyle and was delighted to stand top of the podium. “I was really excited to win gold in the freestyle 50m,” he said. “I have won medals at international events and this felt just as good as they did.”
The GEMS Wellington Academy pupil added: “I love the fact that some strong teams like Jumeriah College and Wellington International School compete against us. The Nairobi school was a great addition and I hope to see many more schools at next year’s event. This one of our favourite events in the season.”
Anna Thompson was the girls winner of the competition and the seven-year-old was happy to reign supreme.
“I am super proud and great achievement for me,” she said. “Everyone tried to do their best. The competition can only be good for my development as there were so many swimmers from different schools. It’s given me an insight on what I can aim for.”
Thirty schools across the UAE will begin their battle for supremacy in a much-changed Maxtalent Global Sports’ Vision Cup, which begins on Monday.
Now in its 12th edition, the competition has gone from strength to strength, giving budding cricketers an opportunity to showcase their skills for their schools.
The girls’ event was a huge success with eight sides competing and organisers are expecting stern competition in the boys’ category with 30 schools in the fray.
Titles will be decided in the Under-12, U-14, U-16 and 16 and above with games played at Skyline University.
In order to promote the game and help the player’s development, there will be a major change to the rules with all 14 squad players featuring in a match.
Sudhakar Shetty, head coach of Maxtalent Global Sports, said: “When a team wins the toss, the batting team can select their strongest batting line-up and in the second innings, three batsmen will be replaced by specialist bowlers. This means all players will participate in the match.”
Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar put the idea forward last year and Shetty put it to the experiment in their Mumbai tour.
“We think this will be a great idea as the standard of play will increase and there will be more opportunities for players to play,” he said.