x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Real-world benefits cited in 'virtual' football

The Middle East's first "virtual" football experience will be a key attraction at the upcoming Mirdif City Centre mall due to open early next year.

DUBAI // The Middle East's first "virtual" football experience will be a key attraction at the upcoming Mirdif City Centre mall due to open early next year. Aspiring football stars will be able to develop skills, learn new tricks and square off against famous players in computer-generated environments. The concept is the brainchild of the former England forward Kevin Keegan and was first launched in Scotland in 2007. Players, either on their own or in teams of up to four, use real balls in an academy zone, where they learn dribbling, tackling and shooting, before being cheered on to the pitch for a grand finale match in a virtual stadium.

Each participant will have a digital identity, so players can beat their own score or compete against friends. Craig Hart, the vice president of Al Futtaim Leisure, said the soccer circus was designed primarily as a leisure activity, but it would be open to schools and clubs to help develop the next generation of footballing talent. "The facility will provide a unique, interactive experience for people of all ages and skill levels who enjoy football," Mr Hart said.

"Each session will last an hour and include focus on passing, dribbling, kicking and shooting. Players face a number of challenges including hitting moving targets and scoring a goal in a virtual match experience. "There is also a competitive element, as players are issued with a card that saves their scores and enables them to track their progress over time and select who they would like to compete against. Players are taken through each session by a virtual coach who will explain the tasks, provide feedback on how they have performed."

Mr Hart said the facility aimed to overcome the lack of open space for recreational sport in Dubai. tbrooks@thenational.ae