DUBAI // A UAE-based teenager has been awarded a contract with Primera Liga club Celta Vigo after excelling on the du Football Champions initiative.
Ahmed El Yamani, a 16-year-old Palestinian midfielder who was born in Sharjah, will travel to the Spanish top-flight side on Wednesday, where he will spend the next year with the aim to earning a full-time deal once he turns 18.
El Yamani also had an offer from Malaga, the club with which he spent two weeks on trial last summer. He was scouted while playing for the du Elite Team during their training camp in Marbella.
“I am very, very excited,” he said. “It’s the first step and will encourage me to reach for a career at the top of professional football. I want to thank du Football Champions and all my coaches, because they did a great job for me and they helped me achieve my dream.”
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The du La Liga High Performance Centre (HPC), launched last August as an offshoot of the du Football Champions platform, is designed to create a pathway for emerging footballers in the Emirates through to the professional game. Players can be scouted by local and international clubs, or earn a full football scholarship to a leading university in the United States.
El Yamani, who plays predominantly on the wing, was an integral component of the du La Liga HPC Under 18 team who were recently crowned champions of the UAE Football Association Academy League. Another member of the side, Rashid Ahmed, 17, has been approached by Arabian Gulf League club Al Ain with the view to signing a contract. Ahmed, who lives in Sharjah, plays at full-back.
Organisers said another five players from the HPC have attracted interest from Primera Liga scouts representing Villarreal, Valencia, Real Betis and Sevilla. They hope to impress on the initiative’s next summer camp, which runs in Spain from August 2-23.
“Obviously we’re very proud,” said Hussein Murad, chief executive of Inspiratus, the organisers of the scouting platform. “This is the first fruit of the du Football Champion platform and the du La Liga HPC. Ahmed will be able to reach a good level of professional football in the future.”
Fernando Sanz, the former Real Madrid defender who now acts as executive director of La Liga for the Mena region, cited El Yamani as an example of the progress made by the HPC in a short space of time.
“Here we see the fruits of the High Performance Centre,” Sanz said. “Ahmed has been offered a contract by Celta Vigo - this is the most important thing. I say good luck to him and do not waste this opportunity. When we started this programme, I remember perfectly the first school we ran last summer. The level and physical condition was nothing like it is now. Everything as a team is now amazing. The [academy league] final against Al Ain was like men versus kids, where the score was 8-0.
“I told the players they have amazing tools, coaching and opportunity. They got this opportunity thanks to du and La Liga, and they were given the best tools in the world to become a professional player. But it is also important to be very good people.
“Our highly qualified coaches are committed to the development of youth football talents in the UAE and we can see a great change in the performance level of the inaugural team, some of whom have already caught the attention of La Liga clubs. We are certain that many more of them will become the football stars of the future.”
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