x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Cahill keen to give youth a chance

Dubai Sports City and other academies in the emirates are hoping to draw athletes to help bring on the next generation.

DUBAI // In Dubai, the rise of the sporting academy began four years ago with the launch of Manchester United Soccer Schools. Since then the national demand for sporting excellence has spawned Dubai Sports City, which is near completion and will boast eight specialist academies, including football, hockey and swimming. DSC and other independent academies in the emirate have attracted an array of professional athletes keen to help a generation of children develop their potential.

The Elite Sporting Academy was opened in March at Repton School in Nad Al Sheba under the helm of Tim Cahill, the Everton and Australia international footballer, and his cousin, John Mamea-Wilson, a former rugby professional. The former England footballers Trevor Sinclair and Carlton Palmer and the Samoan dual-code rugby international Apollo Perelini are among the permanent coaching line-up. ESA's aim is to provide promising young rugby and football players with a platform to a sporting career without having to leave the UAE. The academy offers scholarships funded by international football and rugby stars to pupils who show talent but do not have the finances to pursue their dream.

"I am passionate about kids and sport and putting something back in," Cahill said. "My parents got a loan for £3,000 for me to come to England and it was very difficult, especially with brothers and sisters. Not every parent can put their kids through schooling. "There are talented kids out there but they miss the opportunity we are trying to give them." Whether or not they became successful players, he said, each child would have a life-changing experience and an education. "We want to find the first kid from Dubai to play in the Premier League or the first or second division, or the next rugby [league] player to play for St Helens."

From next season, Manchester United Soccer Schools (MUSS) will be based at DSC, as will Socatots, the International Cricket Council's Global Cricket Academy, the World Hockey Academy, the David Lloyd Tennis Academy and the Butch Harmon School of Golf. Ekta Hutton, assistant academies manager at DSC, is hopeful the site will allow MUSS to develop links with school sports departments and a local league.

Such academies, she said, had an obligation to the community to fill the gap that had prevented young sporting talent developing. loatway@thenational.ae