SHARJAH 11 June 2017: Top UAE sports clubs and experts, including former Real Madrid superstar Michel Salgado, have called for tapping the potential of UAE players young in their early teens to put the UAE football on the global map.
Speaking at the sports session of the Sharjah Ramadan Majlis, eminent sports experts emphasised that if the UAE footballers had to compete with the best of the best in the international arena, especially play for top football clubs in Europe, the mantra has to be ‘catch them young’, harnessing their potential from the tender age of 11 to 15.
The popular Sharjah Ramadan Majlis is being hosted by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau and Sharjah Media Corporation, at Al Majaz Amphitheatre after taraweeh prayers. The session, on Wednesday, was dedicated to sports.
Offering his candid assessment of the UAE football and if the UAE players were good enough to land multimillion dollar contracts with the top international teams, former Real Madrid superstar Michel Salgado asserted that international football was easily the most competitive game in the world and needed a similar approach by the UAE players and clubs. “European football is the real deal and it is a different ballgame altogether,” emphasised the former Spanish footballer, who has been living in the UAE for the past 4 years and training top UAE clubs.
“It’s not the clubs or players but the current system of patronising and excessively pampering players that is to blame for the state of the football in the UAE,” said Salgado suggesting that big bucks and all the perks offered by various clubs and authorities are not helping unleash the killer instinct and competitive spirit of the UAE players.
Recalling his own experience of taking to football and training at a tender age back in Spain, Salgado said it is critical to identify and harness the future footballers in their early teens, ideally at the age of 11 to 15 and train them with the best of the best possibly in Europe. “No coach can achieve miracles by training players at the ripe age of 19 and 20,” he asserted.
Majed Hassan, top Emirati football player and member of UAE national team, said the constant talk of playing for Real Madrid and Barcelona is not healthy. “We should be realistic in our assessments and expectations. It is unfair to compare UAE players with European teams. Besides, when there are good opportunities and money here in the UAE, why should we go to Europe or anywhere else,” he said. He urged the UAE football clubs to promote young talent for the future of the game.
Ahmed Al Rumaithi, President, Al Wahda Football Company, one of the biggest clubs in the region, also said comparing the UAE football to European game was like comparing apples and oranges. He said the various football clubs are as much committed to the game as the players, if not more. “We want our footballers to excel and stay in the game. We are not after their money,” added Al Rumaithi.
Agreeing with the proposition of identifying and tapping future footballers in their early years, he said that the clubs including Al Waha have been striving for this for years but if this strategy has to succeed, everyone must work together including the families and teachers of such players. He said many parents are not sure if their children are cut out for the sports, emphasising that the support of parents is vital in this respect.
Emphasising the community role in identifying promising talent, he said we all want good players but it is not possible to have everyone in the national team. He called for all football clubs in the UAE to work together for grooming budding talent and making the most of the sport in the country.
Veteran Tunisian coach and trainer Captain Reda Bouraoui called for a professional approach to the game and grooming players with potential from the age of 11 and 12 in order to maximise the potential of the UAE football. By training footballers when they are 20 and offering them millions of dirhams, you cannot get the best out of them, he warned. He held the various clubs responsible for the current state of the sports, saying the practice of having too many coaches and sacking them frequently did not help.
Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council, presided over the fourth session of Sharjah Ramadan Majlis. Also present on the occasion were Sheikh Saqar bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Sports Council; Sheikh Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Mualla, Chairman of the Sharjah Cultural and Chess Club; Nada Askar Al Naqbi, Director General of Sharjah Women Sports Foundation; and Tariq Saeed Allay, Director of Sharjah Government Media Bureau, as well as a number of senior officials, footballers and sports lovers.
The discussion was moderated by Ahmed Sultan, TV presenter at the Sharjah Media Corporation.
The Sharjah Ramadan Majlis is hosted annually as part of the Emirate’s efforts to promote a culture of tolerance, dialogue and understanding. The Ramadan Majlis sessions will continue twice a week until June 14 at Al Majaz Amphitheatre after taraweeh prayers.
By Rajive Singh