MUSCAT: In a pioneering initiative that is expected to bring hundreds of young footballers to a common ground and compete against each other over a period of six months in the Sultanate of Oman, a new football tournament named Muscat Academies Youth League (MAYL) was announced on Monday.
Organised by Muscat Football Academy in cooperation with Muscat Media Group, the league for age-group teams, will be played at the lush green grounds of Cheltenham Muscat. The league will begin in October 2023 and will continue till March 2024.
Providing the details, MFA owner Chuck Martini said: “We are delighted to announce the first of its kind league that will cater to the young footballers in Oman, who are learning their skills at different academies in the country.
“I have been associated with the development of grassroots football over the past decade and I realised that there were not many opportunities for the youngsters to compete against each other. Training is different and unless players experience the thrill of playing a match, a lot remains to be desired. We do have few tournaments but to have a full league and have weekend matches was something Oman lacked.”
Martini, a former Moroccan international, said that the inaugural edition of the league will feature five age-group leagues and also have a girls’ league.
“We will have a league for under-9, under-11, under-13, under-15 and under-17 for the boys while the girls’ league will feature an under-14 category. While the U9 league will be a seven-a-side format, leagues for U11, U13 and U15 will be eight-a-side and the U17 league will be played on a 10-a-side basis,” Martini said.
Martini said that private football academies look for more support from the Oman Football Association (OFA) and revealed that the Muscat Academies Youth League will also be open to age-group teams from OFA-recognised clubs.
He said: “We have got a good response so far. We have around 16 private football academies and schools in operations in Oman. We are hopeful that the inaugural edition will feature at least eight academies and around 400 kids across all categories. Our success in the opening season will certainly open doors for more academies to come on board as all youngsters wish to play matches and the joy of winning a match is priceless. Competitive games are a must to improve the players’ skills and temperament and this is why we have come up with this project.”
“I would like to thank Cheltenham Muscat for providing us with their excellent facilities and Muscat Media Group for supporting this league that is expected to bring some of the future stars of Oman,” added Martini.
Graeme Fisher, director of Cheltenham Muscat said: “We are a new school in Oman, having launched our operations two years back. We have always believed in all-round development of children and sports activities are part and parcel of our curriculum. We are proud to be partners of Muscat Football Academy for the league, which will bring together kids from different schools and academies. It gives us a sense of community involvement and we are happy to be associated with it.”
Sultan al Harassi, former national youth team player, who was also present on the occasion said, “There is a need for better coordination between private football academies and Oman Football Association. This initiative is praiseworthy as it will give a good platform for children to compete over months and help them gain exposure to play against different teams. I am looking forward to a successful inaugural league for the youths.”