x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Manchester United football school to open in Abu Dhabi

Boys and girls will get the chance to train the Manchester United way when a football school sets up camp in the capital later this month.

ABU DHABI // Boys and girls will get the chance to train the Manchester United way when a football school sets up camp in the capital later this month.

Rouda al Hamdi, 13, got a preview yesterday when the Manchester United Soccer Schools, which give budding David Beckhams the chance to acquire professional skills, conducted a training session at Al Raha International School.

The 45-minute session included kicking a ball over a bar about three-quarters of a metre high, an exercise designed to teach ball control.

"It was easier to do because we were shown how to do it," said Rouda, an Emirati. "It was really good and I learnt new skills. I got better at control and dribbling," added the attacking midfielder, who plays every week for Al Raha.

According to Andy Dixon, the organisation's head coach, the programme sows the seeds for a lifetime of good health.

"It was awesome. I had so much fun and learnt new skills," said one of Rouda's teammates, 13-year-old Lee Caplen, who is from South Africa. "There was some good advice and it should make our team better."

The programme is based on the Manchester United Academy, from which Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and numerous other professional footballers graduated.

"The course here focuses on skills development and technique," said Mr Dixon. "The soccer school is the grassroots of youth development at United. It's about providing the kids with a positive experience. It's about fun and learning skills. For us, it's about getting them social. There are lots of different nationalities coming and they make friends with people from all over the world."

Some of the skills the youths focus on are dribbling, passing, turning and finishing. But mental and physical growth are also part of the mix.

"We encourage healthy lifestyles, and we talk to the kids about nutrition," said Mr Dixon. "Not only do they learn how to meet the demands of the game, but also how to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Initially we just want the children to come on to the course and have a great experience."

Omar Rayyan, 13, an Emirati, said he enjoyed the training.

"I could control the ball better, and the speed, after," he said with a grin, but added a career in football was not for him.

Corrado Salvia, who is from the US, said he would love to be a professional footballer, and that the school helped him. "I got to practise all the moves and skills," said the 13-year-old, who is fan of Barcelona and AC Milan.

Mr Dixon said Corrado was on the right track. "Even the professionals practise their skills and techniques every single day. As long as you practise every day you maintain your skills, and that's what it's all about.

Mr Dixon has served as head coach and co-ordinator for the programme in courses in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as in the UK. The school has its HQ at Manchester United's stadium, Old Trafford.

Abu Dhabi's Manchester United Soccer Schools course, which costs Dh990, begins on October 30 at the Domeeharnan@thenational.ae">eharnan@thenational.ae