Boys and girls in Abu Dhabi and Dubai who show top footballing ability will have the chance to compete against the best teams at home and abroad as Manchester City steps up its development of elite sports in the UAE.
The Premier League champions' City Football Schools, which use the same coaching methods that Pep Guardiola does with the first team in Manchester, has identified the first batch of thirty, 11 to 14-year-olds, to be part of its Talented Player Programme (TPP). The aim is to provide an elite development path to a professional career in the game for young footballers from the UAE.
That initial group is expected to grow to 50 next year, according to City Football Schools. Elite tournaments, in the Emirates – such as the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup – and internationally, are being identified for the programme's squads to compete in.
At the Oman International Cup in November, for example, a TPP squad took on the likes of Inter Milan and Torino.
“It was a great tournament to be invited to and another important learning experience for our players,” said Simon Hewitt, the City schools' head of football operations. “To play in international countries against top European academies is what these players need to further challenge them."
The programme is in addition to the City schools' existing "development" and "select" squads which operate across age groups for boys and girls – as young as five and up to 16-year-old in the case of the "select" squads.
Worldwide coaching experiences are also critical to creating further levels of competitiveness for local talent. Last summer, four youngsters from the UAE joined City's clubs all over the world to sharpen their football skills. The rising footballers were chosen to showcase their abilities on the international stage due to their on-pitch progress as part of City Football Schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The promising players – aged between 10 and 13 – received expert coaching at New York City, Yokohama Marinos in Japan and also Manchester City in England. City Football Group has holdings in the Japanese and American clubs, as well as in Uruguay's Club Atletico Torque, Spain's Girona and Melbourne City Football Club.
In March, Abu Dhabi Sports Council signed a three-year deal with the Premier League champions, and its parent company, to send promising young footballers and UAE-based coaches to the Etihad Campus in in the UK for training and development.