x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Players seeking club trials advised to go through the correct channels

Anyone considering a football career in the UAE should protect themselves by going through the correct channels, says the chief executive for ISI International Sports Services.

DUBAI // Anyone considering a football career in the UAE should protect themselves by going through the correct channels, implored Jack Woodcock, the chief executive for ISI International Sports Services. Mr Woodcock has helped set up trials for talented young players with clubs internationally, and said there are opportunities in the UAE. However, he stressed: "Players have got to have the right people with them, people with the right contacts and who know the right people over here."

Dr Salim al Shamsy, the UAE Football Association's head of players and transfers as well as its finance and procurement departments, agreed, saying that the "better and legal way is to go through one of the [authority's] official agents" who can then introduce those with talent to the clubs. Mr Woodcock advised players against coming to the Emirates on the promise of a trial unless they have an official letter from the club confirming it and providing details. The clubs should pay for flights and arrange visas and accommodation.

In a bid to help break the cycle of players not getting contracts and being unable to return home, Steven Summers, the Dubai-based director of Dynamic Live Sports, helped establish the Verve FC football team in Ghana, made up largely of youngsters who have requested his help in arranging UAE trials. "We give them free trials over there so that we can extend the profile of those with promise, taking pictures and video footage of them to show to scouts," Mr Summers said. "Those who are too young or are not likely to make it straight away can play in the team in the meantime."

The problem is also a global one, which a former footballer from Cameroon fears will only worsen after the World Cup finals. Jean-Claude Mbvoumin, who played professionally in France a decade ago, establishedCulture Foot Solidaire (CFS) in 2000. The non-profit organisation supports abandoned young players in Paris and hopes to raise ?200,000 (Dh880,000) to run education and awareness campaigns on the issue in 10 African countries this summer, including Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and Mali.

While there has been a push by the European Union and Fifa, football's world governing body, to protect minors from such exploitation, older players are just as vulnerable to unscrupulous agents. "Today, everybody thinks Dubai is the richest country in the Middle East, so everybody wants to go there." The situation was much the same in major European nations, where many tried their luck but few succeeded, he said.

"In France, 800 young African players come for trials every year but just 30 per cent were retained," said Mr Mbvoumin. "When they go to Europe their families pay a lot of money. They feel they have to succeed. It's very difficult to say, 'I have to go home'." loatway@thenational.ae