For any parent with a young child who is passionate about playing football, the future can seem bright. Especially for a child growing up in Dubai and in the UAE, the chance to make it as a footballer can be an amazing opportunity. Having improved massively over the last decades, the Middle East is now a fine place for talent to grow. Massive funding has gone into coaching across the Middle East as a whole, and the results are clear to see. But the problem that many parents have is making the right choices for their child’s academy development.
For example, let’s say that you have a young son and he is being courted by some of the biggest clubs in the world. He’s being linked with clubs as varied as Manchester United, Arsenal, Juventus, and Real Madrid. It’s likely that you are very excited – but also certain that your child will make it as a professional footballer. After all, you don’t get looked at by the best clubs in the world if you are not that good, correct?
The only problem is that looking brilliant at academy age is a different thing to look brilliant in the senior game. Many children go to the top clubs in the world but are lucky to make a single first-team appearance. In fact, many parents and children are ticked with the idea of becoming a big-name star for a super-club far before they are the reason.
Is reaching the top so young a good thing?
The one thing that we would note is that if you are a young player or the parent of a young player, those big moves are tempting. You could have the chance to train abroad under elite coaches, at world-class facilities, with global heroes of the game. But is it the right move? Not always.
It’s often better for a young player to enjoy playing in an environment that gives them confidence and control. They should be comfortable and capable of taking the ball in with both feet, and they should be able to play a leading role in the team they get games with.
Many young players are given the chance to take part in the elite academies. The reason given by parents and agents, too, is quite sound advice. If you go to a smaller club and don’t make it, you are likely done at professional football. If you go to an elite club and don’t make it, though? You can normally drop into a lower but still very high level of the professional game.
The problem is, though, that most children will miss those key development years. By the age of 18, most players should already have made their senior competitive debut. If you are still waiting for the debut after 18, even 19, you are missing out on some very important lessons. Can that bridge be gapped at later levels?
Don’t fall for the commercial side of the football
A major problem that many parents have is they hear of their young child being linked with a super-club. If you are from somewhere like here in Dubai, you could be one of the first of your country to play for that club. That can be deeply exciting, and it makes you want to take the chance. Perhaps you could be the trailblazer, the example?
The problem is that football is a deeply cynical business, and players are signed for commercial reasons constantly. It’s a brutal state of affairs, with young players taken to Europe and similar to play for the academies. Perhaps, if they are lucky, they will get a token sub appearance from the bench if their team plays a tour in the region.
However, for the most part, it’s often cynically driven. Don’t fall for the idea that you can become the first player of X nationality to play for Y giant club. Given the sheer level of academy talent coming through at many of these clubs, the chances of making it can be tiny. That’s why so many people choose to instead avoid falling for this commercial trap and stick to a domestic option.
Remember, this is a young child that you are talking about. Trying to get a young child to head out there and play top quality football at the very peak of the sport is a massive mistake. You are expecting too much of them at this stage in their careers. They should instead be allowed to grow up in an environment that helps them to grow as footballers as well as people.
Remember that academies at the top are stacked
If you were to ever send your child to join the academy of a foreign club, we recommend trying to watch some of their youth games. What kind of football do they play? What is the talent level of the young players who are playing the same position as your child?
This is so, so important to note down. Simply because you have recognised their kit or their badge does not mean they are signing your child for the right reasons. They might already have several good players in his position, so where are the games going to come from?
You should always look to make sure that your child joins an academy that is going to be suited to the kind of football they are most likely to play. You absolutely have to make sure that where they are going, there is a pathway into the next phase of their development.
Again, you shouldn’t have your child sign for a big club because you know who they are or you recognised their badge. It’s a common mistake by parents who think that big clubs equal tremendous coaching. While they might learn a lot, development comes from more than just doing training sessions.
So, keep all of this in mind. If you have young talent in your hands, the best place for them might be a football academy in Dubai instead of moving abroad.