x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Al Jazira keep up good work in Abu Dhabi

Secondary schools league is more fun and better organised with the club offering facilities free of charge.

Omar El Najmi, the Al Yasmina striker, cannot wait for the new schools football league to kick off after a highly successful pre-season for his team.

When the secondary schools league begins in earnest on October 30, the 13 year old and his teammates are hoping to hit the ground running.

"The pre-season tournament at Al Jazira last week was brilliant and that has got us really prepared for when the league starts," El Najmi said. "It helped, of course, that we won the Under 14 competition for boys.

"It's fantastic that there is a proper league now for us to play in. It will help us get better as players, plus it's a lot more fun when you have serious games every week and there is a league table to keep track of."

There have been school football leagues in Abu Dhabi for many years, but they were often loosely organised; sometimes teams would not turn up for games, or teams of differing age groups would be matched together.

Al Jazira Football Club has played a big role in helping improve the situation. Mike Edgar, the director of sport at the British School Al Khubairat (BSAK), teamed up with Jazira four years ago to start a league for primary schools. It has now moved into secondary schools for the second year running.

Jazira provide the schools with facilities for no charge, and also give the schools free tickets for their home games. The Under 16 teams from BSAK and Al Yasmina will play on the pitch before the Abu Dhabi club's first Pro League match of the season on Saturday.

"It was just a question of getting like-minded schools together who want to play fair, play hard and have games between students of the same age," Edgar said. "I'm afraid there were times in the past when 14 year olds were playing 18 year olds, and that's no good at all.

"So this is the second year of the Al Jazira secondary schools league. It's fairly small beginnings but we are growing by the year."

Edgar is looking for as many schools as possible to get involved.

"There are a lot of good players in the area. What I hope is that in five years time there is going to be a very healthy schools league in Abu Dhabi," he said.

El Najmi knows which team he wants to beat. "We managed to finish ahead of BSAK in the pre-season tournament, after losing to them a few times, so it would be great to beat them for the league title," he said.

"They are our big rivals so it would be brilliant to beat them again."

ncameron@thenational.ae