Four-year-old footballer scouted by Arsenal while still in nursery

Zayn Ali Salman becomes the youngest-ever recruit to the London club's pre-academy

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A four-year-old London boy has begun training with Arsenal, after the world famous football club spotted the young player while he was still in nursery.

Zayn Ali Salman caught the eye of scouts while outperforming with boys much older than him at the local grass roots team, and becomes the youngest-ever recruit to the Arsenal pre-academy.

His talent has always been obvious.

“You could always see he’s just a cut above the rest,” said his father Ali Salman, an Arsenal fan whose parents are from Iraq. “He’s just got a raw, raw talent,” he told The National.

Mr Salman says Zayn’s special ability was apparent from a young age, whether it was beginning to talk at only 8 or 9 months old, or cycling without stabilisers at the age of 3.

“He was training with much, much bigger kids. Arsenal then scouted him while he was still in nursery. That kind of set the tone, and it just went like wildfire — you know how it is with the football world. As soon as there’s a sniff of real talent, everyone’s on him.

“Obviously it’s a bit much for me as a father, but at the same time I’m loving it and taking it with a pinch of salt. It’s a long, long journey.”

After he was invited into the Arsenal pre-academy, scouts from other London clubs contacted Mr Salman to show their interest, including Chelsea, Fulham and Crystal Palace.

Zayn Ali Salman, second from the left, was spotted by Arsenal while he was still in nursery. Photo: Zayn Ali Salman/Instagram

For now, because of Zayn’s age, no club can actually sign him, he can only train with the clubs.

Mr Salman says that although the buzz around Zayn has been amazing, they are just taking it one step at a time.

“He’s just like any other reception kid. He doesn’t know what’s happened to be honest, he’s just enjoying it,” said Mr Salman.

In recent years, footballers from the Middle East and North Africa region have surged in prominence in the English Premier League.

Egypt and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has been one of the best — if not the best — players in the Premier League.

Manchester City and Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez has won the Premier League three times, and Arsenal count Egypt’s Mohamed Elneny among their numbers.

“We need more of our own flying the flag, breaking those barriers, which I think is major,” said Mr Salman.

Updated: October 21, 2021, 1:21 PM