By Elliot Birdy
At the start of the 2006/07 Premier League campaign, a paper that contractually partnered Arsenal Football Club and Emirates Airlines until the year 2028 was signed. During this time the bond between Dubai and Arsenal has strengthened substantially.
As a young Brit moving to Dubai I was both eager to go and worried that it would not cater for my footballing needs. It turns out I had nothing to worry about because at the home of the Dubai Rugby Sevens, an Arsenal training facility has been built - complete with grass pitches, a players' lounge and a coaching staff headed up by former England Under-21 international and Arsenal midfielder Ian Selley.
"This is very important because it shows that the coaches think that you can really benefit in life from playing football"
It’s not just the available goods that make Arsenal Soccer Schools Dubai (ASSD) a place to play. The coaches also put teams from different age groups into leagues and tournaments, and the 11 to 12-year-old team won their division on the last day of the season.
Sometimes there are friendly matches as well where ASSD take on the likes of the FCB Escolar Dubai and teams from all around the Middle East.
Once every season (three to four months) players from all age groups get selected by the coaches to participate in the development squad. This is where the coaches put players' ability to the test to try and get the maximum out of him or her.
This is very important because it shows that the coaches think that you can really benefit in life from playing football. Also, players know not to rest on their laurels once they’ve made it there because they can get discarded during the season as well as at the end.
There is one time of the year when first-team players visit the training campus and join in with the sessions! Imagine if you were passing to the likes of Carl Jenkinson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Kieran Gibbs… all of whom recently paid a visit to 7he Sevens.
The Arsenal lads joined in with the warm-ups and then participated in the matches as well. After that they were asked a series of questions and were then led upstairs into the players’ lounge where the children received autographs and had their pictures taken with their favourite players.
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