Dubai's Racing City Group adds Los Angeles to its growing football portfolio

Board member Nasser Al Tamimi aims to expand the game in a financially sustainable way

Nasser Al Tamimi, board member of the Racing City Group, is flanked by film producer Paolo Odierna, left, and Morris Pagniello, founder of Genova International Soccer Academy. Courtesy Racing City Group
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Dubai-based Racing City Group have teamed up with Racing Los Angeles City as part of their latest franchise partnership.

Racing Los Angeles will play in the second division of the United Premier Soccer League from July and host matches at their 15,000-capacity stadium.

They are the fourth club after Sacramento, Houston and Louisville to strike a partnership with the Racing City Group.

The franchise deal was signed by Morris Pagniello and American businessman and film producer Paolo Odierna.

Pagniello is the founder of Genova International Soccer Academy, which has over 24,000 affiliated players from around the world, and is the president of five football clubs in Italy, Spain and the US.

“Football is growing in the United States with demand from the city’s community for boys and girls to pursue football full time,” said Nasser Al Tamimi, a board member of the Racing City Group.

“We want to grow by striking more partnership deals with clubs and young players from around the world.

“We are also involved with Emirati clubs and players under our philosophy of running them independently as 100 per cent private clubs with professional programmes.”

The Racing City Group has a number of Emirati and expatriate players already enrolled in their programme.

Kalba’s Ahmed Amer Al Naqbi, 23, and Sharjah goalkeeper Majed Mohsen, the 25-year-old son of former UAE goalkeeper Mohsin Musabah, were the first two Emiratis to receive scholarships from La Liga club Deportivo Leganes on November 2019.

“Amer and Majed spent four months in Spain but they had to return following the outbreak of coronavirus,” Al Tamimi said.

“Racing City Group is the first to offer Emirati players scholarships to a La Liga club. Ahmed and Majed will both rejoin Leganes when the pandemic situation improves.”

Al Tamimi is the founder of Abu Dhabi Health Club in 1998 and the first Emirati to do so. He has more than 25 years of experience in the sports industry as an administrator and consultant.

“I follow all sports. That’s my passion and I’m always receptive to new ideas and challenges,” the former UAE basketball international said.

“I work closely with sports councils in different emirates and have presented a few proposals that would benefit young Emirati players."

Al Tamimi is the incumbent general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation since it was established in 2000. He has also been a board member of the International Judo Federation for the last 14 years.

Al Tamimi, who is preparing to do his Phd in sports management, was first engaged as an advisor when the body was founded in 2017, as Genova Academy Group. He became a shareholder a year later.

“It was founded as an academy and two years later we formed a new company – Racing City Group – to be affiliated with clubs,” explained Al Tamimi.

“We have shares in six clubs around the world. We have academies in 14 countries. If we find talent and the parents want to send them to clubs we are affiliated with to pursue their careers ... we do so by taking care of their expenses initially to give them the start.

“We have more than 100 players affiliated in clubs from around the world and they play in the first and second division. We have scouts working for us in Africa, South America, Australia and the USA.”

Al Tamimi said Dubai is a good hub because of its strategic position on the world map and the infrastructure and facilities in the country.

The Racing City Group manages first-division club Dibba Al Hosn’s academy. “We run their academy programme,” he said. “We manage the academy and bring the coaches and share the funds from the players we sell.

“From my side, I have brought this new strategy for football in our country. I try to give the idea to other clubs to invest in players and get an income from both local and overseas players.

“My objective is to run professional programmes for the players independently, without depending on the government for funds. Our programme was hindered by the pandemic but we are now moving forward with some of the local clubs.”