Manchester City starlets with the hopes of becoming the next David Silva and Sergio Aguero have had the summer of the lives enhancing their football education.
Five of the most talented young players from Manchester City Football Schools in the UAE have travelled to clubs all over the world as part of their development programme.
The boys – aged between 10 and 13 – were coached at Manchester City FC, New York City FC, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan and Girona FC in Catalonia – sides all part of the City Football Group.
The players are part of City Football Schools, based in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and were chosen due to their rapid rate of progress in recent seasons.
Joshua Hoferer, who was in Japan to train with Yokohama F. Marinos, said: “It was so exciting to train with the Yokohama F. Marinos players and coaches. I feel the experience has taken me one step closer toward my goal of becoming a professional football player. This has been the chance of a lifetime for me and I’m very grateful to City Football Schools for this amazing opportunity.”
Isaac Brown headed to New York to train with New York City FC, and said: “I just couldn’t wait to get to New York City FC and it really showed me what is needed to play at the highest level. The coaches were impressed with my speed and technical skills, we got the chance to do 1 v 1s and a penalty shoot out, which I scored in. I also got the chance to have lunch with Claudio Reyna and got a ball signed by all of the first team players – they even invited me to play with them anytime I’m in New York. The trip was incredible and I’m so grateful to City Football Schools for believing in me and giving me this opportunity.”
Thomas Nesbitt and Robert March flew to the UK to train with Premier League Champions, Manchester City FC, at the famous Etihad Campus in Manchester.
Thomas said: “The facility is just the best football campus in the world and to be part of it this summer was incredible. From start to finish we really got to see what goes on at the home of the Premier League champions.
Robert added: “I have been coached at City Football Schools in Abu Dhabi for the past seven years and have supported City all my life. What was really great was to learn in-depth how the academy works and to hear from the range of coaches in Manchester. It is an important step in my development both on and off the pitch. ”
Simon Hewitt, Head of Football Operations for Manchester City in the Middle East and across North Africa, explained how the initiative was devised and future plans.
Simon said: “We are always looking at new ways to improve and enhance the experience of the players participating in the City Football Schools programme. This initiative was a very exciting one and as a coaching team we are delighted to be offering these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
“These coaching experiences are within our new Talented Player Programme, which has been introduced as part of the overall player development pathway, starting from a child’s very first steps into football.
“With City Football Group’s unique network of clubs around the world, we have at our disposal a wide range of opportunities and experiences to offer.”
The most famous name in jiu-jitsu is now a permanent fixture in Dubai.
Some may say ‘Gracie’ is synonymous with the sport – but it goes far deeper than that.
Effectively without the famous Brazilian family, jiu-jitsu as we know it does not exist, and nor does mixed martial arts.
Royce Gracie is famed for his accomplishments in MMA – using his family’s brand of Brazilian jiujitsu to take on, and defeat, some of the most skilled fighters on the planet. This was at a time when MMA was in its nascent stages with less-defined rules, and no weight categories – Royce would often find himself outweighed in some cases by more than 200lbs.
But, such was his confidence and capability in jiu-jitsu, the way in which the deck was stacked against him was often irrelevant.
Gracie went on to become a multiple time world champion, with an MMA record of 15 wins and two defeats. Now those wanting to learn his renowned style can do so in Dubai – at the recently opened Royce Gracie Academy on Al Wasl Road.
Drawing on the principles of his family, and in particular father Helio, Gracie says his academy is all about the purest form of the martial arts – self-defence, confidence building and the overall development of a person – not just the physical aspects.
“We are here to teach self-defence and teach the new generation respect and confidence,” he said. “My father didn’t teach me how to fight, he
taught me the art of jiu-jitsu.
“If you look when you walk in it teaches hygiene, the place is clean. It teaches respect. It is beyond the mat – we serve as an example. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I eat healthy food. Right there is an example for the kids and what they should learn. It goes beyond the mats and the martial art.
“Today I believe in anything I put myself into, and any direction I point myself in, I want to be number one. I don’t know if I would be able to say that if it was not for jiu-jitsu.”
Such is the value of the family name, anyone wanting to teach Gracie jiu-jitsu can expect at least a decade of learning beforehand – and that includes those now leading the academy in Dubai.
“I am not just giving out franchises to everybody,” Royce explained. “I have to know the person. It takes a minimum of 10-15 years to get a black belt under
me – that’s the way my father taught me. It is not like two years you get a black belt and go and open up a school. I don’t want just
anyone to represent my name – because it’s my name on the line.”
Gracie said BJJ is for everyone, and has praised the UAE for its approach to the sport.
“Jiu-jitsu is perfect for the young ones because it teaches them discipline. It is also perfect for females and the older generation.
“We are going to start with the basics. We have a curriculum that we follow, it is my father’s curriculum. We teach from standup to on the ground grappling, from self defence to defending on the ground. Most fights start standing up so we are going to teach the average student standing up first, then if it goes to the ground, how to escape and defend on the ground.
“What they (UAE authorities) have done over here in putting jiu-jitsu in schools so children can experience it at a young age is unbelievable, it is so good to see. I wish other countries would adapt to that and hopefully one day we will have jiu-jitsu as part of PE.”
While the pure form of BJJ is based around self defence, if someone wants to pursue a career in the sport then the academy is more than happy – but for Royce, those days are now over.
“MMA is where we get together to test our styles,” he said. “In a martial arts school, I am not going to build up students to become MMA fighters. I am teaching them how to defend themselves. If they have talent and want to pursue a fight career we will encourage that – not a problem.
“I am done, you have to know when to stop in this business. The body doesn’t recover as fast when you get hurt. I feel good and people keep asking, but I’ll let my son and cousins do it. They are doing very well, let the young generation take over. I held the torch for a very long time, so I’ll pass it on.”
For more information and to sign up see https://www.roycegraciedubai.com/
A seven-year-old Emirati girl has shared the story of her dreams coming true being a mascot alongside Lionel Messi.
In an inspiring video Shahad Ibrahim Hasan Alhosani’s story is told by her mother who entered a competition to win the incredible opportunity with RAKBANK.
The football-mad youngster was chosen for the prize because of her celebration after scoring a goal on FIFA19 as part of the Priceless Experience competition on RAKBANK’s social media – she’s the first Emirati girl to be part of this.
Shahad can then be seen traveling to Barcelona, and walking out with Messi ahead of the side’s Champions League quarter final with Manchester United.
“I never thought I would ever be able to meet Messi in my life. He’s the best footballer in the world and I could not be happier to be able to meet my hero. I want to thank Mastercard and RAKBANK for making this happen. This is the best gift I’ve ever received and I will always remember it,” she said.
You can watch the video here: