On the Ball: Football is a language that children like to speak

Lifestyle Tuesday 14/August/2018 18:30 PM
By: Times News Service
On the Ball: Football is a language that children like to speak

“My daughter wants to join this football academy, but who are the others who play there?” is commonly heard among parents in the Sultanate of Oman. As parents, it is of course natural for you to be concerned about the company that your children keep.
Don’t be too worried though. Most of the children who come to the academies aren’t focused on where you come from. All that children want to know is who you are, because they want to be your friend.
“60% of our 200 young players are Indian, and the rest of the 40% are a broad mix of people, they are locals, they are Indonesian, Sudanese and Filipinos, among others,” said Mohammed Yoosuf, manager of Alpha Football Academy. “In the beginning, there is a bit of an adjustment with children coming to play alongside others, but that passes really quickly because at that age, they want to make friends and are really interested in playing football.
“I think that everyone should learn to play sports at a young age because you learn faster,” he added. “Most of our children are between the ages of 10 and 14 because that is the ideal age at which you can understand football after you have learned the basics.”
At Muscat Football Academy, head coach Chuck Martini says that ‘your passport to success does not depend on the passport you own’.
“My first speech when we had an induction was team spirit and that was to be supportive to every team member, regardless of whether they make a mistake that causes you to lose the game,” said Martini, whose academy features children from Oman, as well as the UK, Ireland, Russia, New Zealand, Jordan and Egypt, to name but a few of the nationalities of children who come to the academy.
“You must be supportive to one another,” he added. “I don’t believe in team spirit of fighting each other and cussing each other. I believe in encouragement. I believe in fair play. You must play by the rules.”
That is something Michel Salgado knows only too well. The former Real Madrid galactico and Spain defender, on hanging up his boots, headed to the Middle East to – among other things – help develop grassroots football.
“Football is a universal language,” he said. “Everybody can speak football because it is a language that all the children like to speak. It is a sport that unites people. It is a special sport because it is the only sport that gets all the people together, from different cultures, from different countries, from different kind of situations, so football is universal, it is unique, and it unites people, and that is what we are doing her.”
“We are trying to unite kids,” added Salgado, who played alongside fellow Real Madrid legends Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Claude Makelele, Fernando Hierro and Roberto Carlos among others. “Competitions and tournaments are for the kids, not for the parents, and that’s what I love about football.”
— gautam@timesofoman.com