x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Young footballers to attend UK training camp

A group of the country's most talented young footballers are to be groomed to be the UAE's future stars in an intensive training programme in the UK.

Sharjah FC's under-16s leave for the UK yesterday to undergo training under the former Birmingham City player Pat Wright.
Sharjah FC's under-16s leave for the UK yesterday to undergo training under the former Birmingham City player Pat Wright.

SHARJAH // A group of the country's most talented young footballers are to be groomed to be the UAE's future stars in an intensive training programme in the UK. Seventeen youngsters aged 15-16 from the U16 team at Sharjah FC left yesterday on a month-long trip, funded by the club, which will see them put through their paces both on and off the pitch by Pat Wright, a former player at Birmingham City. The youngsters will be taught everything from technique and tactical skills to nutrition, team work and discipline by Mr Wright, who was chief coach at Portsmouth FC, and later coached the UAE national team.

Mr Wright, who calls the UAE his second home after coaching at Dubai's Al Nasr FC and the national team, said the level of football in the country had improved radically in recent years. "Over the next 10 years, UAE football will become more professional," he said. "There is more emphasis on fitness and strength training. But what we want to get over to the boys is discipline. They've got to sleep and eat right, and focus, if they're to be international-standard players. They must learn the word professionalism and what that means."

The team will be expected to train two to three times a day and attend lectures during the 14-hour day sessions at Ellesmere College, a specialist sports college in the UK. They have been undergoing an intensive English programme at the American University of Sharjah to help prepare them for the trip. "The players must realise that professionalism is both on and off the pitch," said Yahya Abdul Karim, Sharjah FC's chairman and head of professional affairs at the Sharjah Sports Council. "This is for the long-term development of our players here, at both club and national level. It's very important for us to build up the young players."

Mr Karim played under Mr Wright as the national team goalkeeper between 1981-84. Sharjah FC's U16 team is second in the UAE's FA League behind Al Ain. Three of the 20-man squad have been picked for the U16 UAE national team and are now in Hungary on a summer training camp. Yasir Abbas, 16, has never been to England and hopes to improve his language skills as well as his footballing prowess. "It will be good to see what other players of our age do over in England," he said.

"Usually our camps are held in Arabic-speaking countries. I'm sure we will learn better skills and improve our game on the field. It will teach us new ways of training." Marwan Surour, 16, who like his team-mates adulates the Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi, is being encouraged by his family to take football to a professional level. "It will be an experience to live alone, without the family, for this length of time. We'll have to think for ourselves."

Jasim Ayoun, the youngsters' team manager, said: "From year to year over the last four years they have become better players technically, but they will certainly benefit from this trip in many ways. "They will find the nutritional aspect of the programme difficult. They are 16, not four or five, when it's easier to break bad habits, but we will try." Mohammed al Housany, 16, has been playing at the club since he was 10. He comes from a footballing family, with his brother Abdullah playing at Sharjah FC before taking up professional chess.

"I was born to play football," he said. "Football is my life and it's what I want to do. I hope one day to play for my country." mswan@thenational.ae