Youth football in UAE gets big boost with launch of Mina Cup

New tournament will include sides from Barcelona Academy and Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers

A youth football tournament in Jebel Ali. Photo: Mina Cup
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Organisers of a new youth tournament that will involve teams from as far afield as Mexico, Austria, Indonesia and India hope it will help prepare talented UAE-based footballers for the world stage.

The draw was made for the first Mina Cup on Tuesday, ahead of the competition’s launch in Jebel Ali on April 9.

Tournaments will be staged in four age-groups, from Under 12 to U18. They will include the likes of the Barcelona Academy, English Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers, Austria’s Sturm Graz, and Mexico’s Unam Pumas.

Chris Brown, the tournament founder, wants the tournament to become regarded as the leading youth competition in the world, and hopes it will advance the level youth development in the game in the UAE.

“There are a number of players that get the chance to play across the world because of the work that is being done here, I think what needs to happen next is they play at a very high level on a consistent basis,” Brown said.

“The great work being done by the Youth Football League and the Dubai Sports Council leagues, all these initiatives are going to help people here. Ultimately, we want it to help the national team.

“We would be very proud if players could come through this to represent the UAE national team in the future – hopefully in the World Cup.”

Brown, who has worked in youth football development in UAE since 2004, came up with the idea for the tournament back in 2020, based on similar events he had experienced in Finland, Denmark, Germany and the UK.

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“I’ve seen some very good tournaments here over the years and have been to some very good tournaments overseas with teams from here, too,” Brown said.

“I just felt we needed a tournament to improve on what was out there already, across different age-group.

“I felt we needed a tournament which brings together the local private academies and the local professional clubs, plus brought in talented, big clubs from across the world.”

The competition had been due to launch last year, but was postponed because of Covid. The pandemic has continued to cause logistical issues since, with English sides Leicester City and Middlesbrough, plus the Australian club Central Coast Mariners pulling out of travelling.

“There have been challenges, there’s no two ways about it, and at times you ask yourself if it’s worth it,” Brown said.

“To get to this point now, we are very proud. The team has done a fantastic job. It has been difficult, but it is fantastic to have clubs like Wolves, Pumas from Mexico, Bhayangkara from Indonesia and Sturm Graz from Austria. We are covering four continents.

“We are looking forward to seeing how those players do, but even more so how the players do from the private academies here.

“There is fantastic work being done by private academies and local professional clubs here, and that was the point of this tournament – to progress the football here, across age groups.

“Hopefully in the future we see some of these players go on to make it in the big tournaments in Europe, or over in the States, and can come back and be ambassadors for the Mina Cup in Dubai.”

Updated: March 30, 2022, 9:51 AM
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