In his new role, former Real Madrid player Michel Salgado wants to 'change the mentality' of UAE football and it starts with the local youth at the Dubai Sports City Academy, writes Ahmed Rizvi.
Former Real Madrid player Michel Salgado to add Spanish twist to UAE football
]DUBAI // Michel Salgado believes football in the UAE is at a pivotal stage, after the national team's victory in the Gulf Cup, and the former Real Madrid and Spain stalwart is keen to play his part in taking the game forward.
Winner of two Uefa Champions League medals with Real and four league titles, the former right-back has been visiting Dubai's Pro League clubs in recent days to share his experience of top-flight football with the professionals here.
In the coming days, he will get busy imparting "Spanish football values" and helping youngsters "realise their potential" as director of football at the Dubai Sports City (DSC) Football Academy.
Salgado, who won 53 caps for Spain and spent a decade at Real alongside Galacticos like Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo and David Beckham, will oversee DSC's programmes for children below the age of 16 at their state-of-the-art facility, which includes a full-sized indoor pitch as well as full-sized outdoor grass and artificial pitches, all with the option of floodlights.
Salgado, 37, has been living in Dubai for the past seven months and is excited about his new job.
He hopes he can help change "mentalities" here.
"I watched different games, including the national team," Salgado said. "I believe the last Gulf Cup could be a turning point for football in this country. The national team are doing well and now they are an example for the rest for the youngsters that are coming through.
"So this is a really good period, not only for the UAE but for the Middle East because the World Cup is going to be held in Qatar in 10 years.
"It's a good moment for football in the UAE and I want to be involved in the football here, to bring my experience to the UAE and try to do something really good for the future.
"I know the Emirati people; they love football. I know that from years ago. My first time here was in 2003 and from that time, I realised people here love football.
"But they got a problem. They like to watch Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man United, Spain and France, rather than watching their own teams and their own players.
"We just need to change that mentality. I think they have to open their eyes and try to support their local and national football a little bit more."
Salgado will do his bit to change that mentality through his work at DSC, where he will be supported by head coach Inaki Beni, a coach of Real Madrid junior squads since 2004, and senior coaches Carlos Garcia, Pablo Coira and Adam Griffiths.
Salim Modakkar, Ali Wells, Ross McKenzie and Allie Kader are also part of the coaching roster.
"To secure the services of someone of Salgado's standing within the game is a major and significant signing for Dubai Sports City," said Khalid Al Zarooni, president of Dubai Sports City.
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