The Manchester United Soccer School has opened its first permanent overseas facility in Abu Dhabi, and its teaching children lessons they can apply well beyond the pitch.
"You need to decide who is going to be Giggs, who is going to be Rooney, who is Nani and who is Evra."
A training session at the Manchester United Soccer School is drawing to a close with a final four-a-side game in which the students, a group of seven to nine-year-olds, must choose which of their football heroes to be.
The soccer school has just opened its first permanent overseas facility at the Dome "What do you do in the changing room when the coach is speaking? You are quiet." The children instantly hush.
"We've always supported Manchester United at home because I've always admired Sir Alex Ferguson," explains Samir Nacef, whose sons, Rayan, nine, and Nayel, seven, are both enrolled in the course. Originally from Algeria, he works for a power company in Abu Dhabi, and lived previously in Aberdeen, Scotland, at the same time that Sir Alex was Aberdeen FC's manager. Nacef believes Ferguson's man-management skills and approach to training come through in the practices of the soccer school. "I saw Rayan train yesterday and I like the way they approach the teaching, " he says. "It's not just skills, but fair play. If you lose, you lose, but you still keep your sense of fair play. You have that sportsmanship."
Students who enrol in the course can also compete for a place in the World Skills Final, to be held at Manchester United's Old Trafford ground next year. Soccer school graduates from around the world will take part, and winners will be selected from each course at the Dome @ Rawdhat to play in an Abu Dhabi Skills Final in September 2011. Thirty children are expected to take part, and the top two scorers from that final will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Manchester to represent Abu Dhabi.
Back on the training pitch, Dixon's group is involved in the very important business of choosing which player to be. "I'm Ryan Giggs!" shouts one as he runs on to the pitch. "No, I'm Ryan Giggs," says another, just behind him.
"This the best job in the world," says Dixon. "Not many of our fans around the world get the chance to see Manchester United at Old Trafford, but by bringing the brand to them, it gives them the chance to be part of the Manchester United family."
A six-week course at the Manchester United Soccer School costs Dh990; the 10-week course costs Dh1,650. For more information visit www.manutdsoccerschools.ae or call 02 449 8480