x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

School sports: Skills that could pave the way to Old Trafford

With hard work, the 12-year-old Kim Do-hyum hopes to one day turn out in the red of Manchester United.

A visit to Manchester United and an opportunity to compete in a skills competition and meet some of the stars of the English Premier League club has inspired Kim Do-hyum to pursue a career in football.

Do, as he is known to his friends, said his ambition blossomed after he was selected for the trip by the Manchester United Soccer School in Abu Dhabi.

"It is the only game I played and enjoyed, and now I am serious and want to play in the top-flight competition," said the 12-year-old seventh grade pupil from the American International School. "I am now more serious in improving my game."

Do said he started playing football against friends in his neighbourhood.

"I use to play against older boys and a majority of them were Emiratis," he said. "It was one of them [Mubarak Al Hajiri] who suggested I join the Manchester United School."

Do also trains five days a week at Al Jazira. He is one of three expatriate players to make it into the Pro League club to train with the age group team.

"I am always looking forward for the training sessions, both at the Jazira club and the Man United School besides the training with the school team," he said.

"My ambition is to play as a professional."

Andy Dixon, the head coach of the Manchester United School in Abu Dhabi, believes Do has the potential but will have to work much harder if he wants to play at a professional level.

"As a young adult he is very polite, respectful and well mannered. On the pitch he has a great desire and focus to improve and become better and better. He listens to instructions well and then puts them in to practice. We have seen a lot of improvement in him.

"There are lots of children around the world who are passionate and would love to be professional footballers players but what we keep saying to them if you keep doing the right thing, if you keep trying hard, and who knows perhaps one day, they will do well."

Do was one of the two players, along with Ben Rose, selected for the skills challenge in October.

"Everybody on our courses take part in a series of skills challenges which test them in three different areas of the game," Dixon said. "Technically we look at short passes, dribbling and control.

"All the challenges are age-group handicaps, so a seven year old can even compete with a 16 year old. All the children receive a score for each challenge and the top point scorers are invited to the Abu Dhabi Schools skills final. And then the top two from it get the opportunity to represent the UAE at the world skills final."

Do was born in South Korea but has spent most of his life in the UAE as his parents have been employed here for more than 16 years.

His passion for football began when he was seven and he joined the children in his neighbourhood to play every evening.

Do was bowled over by his visit to Old Trafford.

"It was amazing to visit the Manchester United stadium," he said. "The first thing that I was happy with was to meet some of the famous players like Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-sung, and as soon as I got to meet them my heart started to beat fast.

"And kicking the ball around at the Old Trafford pitch was like a dream and one day I want to become a player for Man U and score goals."

apassela@thenational.ae