x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Perfect pitch

Originally from Middlesbrough in the UK, 32-year-old James Masterman has lived in the UAE for more than a decade and currently owns a 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe.

Not only was the Chevrolet Yukon more spacious than other SUVs James Masterman was looking at, but it also cost less. Jeff Topping / The National
Not only was the Chevrolet Yukon more spacious than other SUVs James Masterman was looking at, but it also cost less. Jeff Topping / The National

Originally from Middlesbrough in the UK, 32-year-old James Masterman has lived in the UAE for more than a decade and currently owns a 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe. Having previously driven a Jeep Cherokee, Mitsubishi Pajero and then a Jeep Wrangler, the professional football coach runs Soccer Kids, coaching children's football and also organises a number of adult five-a-aside leagues and provides portable football pitches for events.

Clearly a practical purchaser, Masterman must have cut an unusual sight as he walked around car showrooms looking for the right vehicle. "When I was test driving cars, I carried around two large bags stuffed with footballs. The salesmen must've thought I was unhinged, but space was the crucial thing when making the decision. In terms of football-equipment carrying capacity, the Tahoe - with its boxier shape - was significantly more spacious than the GMC Yukon and the Cadillac Escalade, even though it was a bit cheaper, so it was an easy choice to make.

"You may be interested to know the maximum amount of equipment I've had in the Tahoe is six bags containing 14 footballs and eight sets of 5ft x 8ft portable goals, which is quite a feat I can tell you - it took some time and I was quite amazed to fit them all in," he laughs.

Having been on the books of English professional football club Middlesbrough from nine-years-old until being released at 17 before studying for a degree in sports and exercise science, Masterman is perfectly placed to be teaching future generations of UAE footballers.

With more than 1,000 children across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah between three to 16 years old to coach every week, Masterman has done a lot of driving since purchasing the car from Al Ghandi in Dubai in January last year for Dh130,000 - already racking up an impressive 90,000 kilometres.

"We teach the youngsters but also run the adult amateur leagues, which is where they tend to move onto after they turn 17. I'm quite proud of the fact we had one pupil that went on to the German National Academy of Football at 14 years old, which is the breeding ground of future Germany internationals. He was always a standout player and we could see from the age of nine he had potential, but he had to grab his chance abroad. It's very difficult to produce top-level footballers in this country with the restrictions on expatriates playing with national children through to a competitive level," he explains.

Masterman is a well-known face in Dubai's amateur football scene as a player, winning four league titles during his time in the UAE with The Dogs and now The Vets and is cashing in on the UAE's burgeoning amateur football scene with his new venture of state-of-the-art mobile football pitches. "Since I started Street Soccer in Dubai, my driving has increased a lot as I follow the portable pitches to events and venues around the UAE. We now have six different setups perfect for five-a-side and four-a-side matches that prove really popular at events with the kids and often the adults too," he says.

Admittedly lacking in automobile knowledge, Masterman is very fond of his Chevrolet, but more for practical reasons than its specifications. "This is the first new car I've owned and when I first bought it I wanted to drive it all the time but it's most important for my job and the Tahoe makes my work as easy as possible. I think it looks pretty good, but in all seriousness - a car is a car. All I really know is it has a powerful engine, costs Dh160 to fill up and holds a heck of a lot of footballs," he laughs.