Friday, December 01
01:17 AM

New league to promote grassroots football


Muscat – A group of private entities in Oman is starting a new football league to tap talents at the grassroots level and promote the sport in every corner of the country.

Organised by Muscat Football Academy, the league for various age- group teams, will be played on the grounds of Cheltenham Muscat. The league will begin in October this year and will continue till March next year.

The formation of the Muscat Academies Youth League, involving Oman’s 16 football academies, was announced on Monday, putting forward the league’s aim to unite semi-professional football teams and provide them with a competitive platform for training and matches.

Based at the Cheltenham School, the Muscat Academies Youth League is poised to revolutionise the local football scene, so expect the organisers.

At a press conference held at the school, Chuck Martini, a former English Premier League footballer, reflected on his experience during the last FIFA World Cup held in Qatar.

Martini lauded the performance of Oman’s national team, stating that they were tactically astute and sometimes better than even established teams. However, he noted the need for more training opportunities for the budding footballers.

“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 were something Oman lacked,” he said.

“The Muscat Academies Youth League would provide these promising players a stage to shine. Omani football is excellent and we are here to start aiding the process of development, and nurturing talents from the grassroots level upwards.”

As the Oman Football Association organises matches only for professional clubs, Martini rued that the non-professional ones are left out in the process.

“We must focus on these clubs as there are exceptional future players hidden here,” he said.

The Muscat Academies Youth League has extended an open invitation to all football academies across the nation.

It is expecting between eight to ten clubs, with an estimated 400 young footballers to participate in the event.

The league will have six categories, spanning age groups under 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17 years. Additionally, a girls’ league will be introduced for players aged 10 to 14.

“We expect the participation of four teams initially, with plans to expand in the near future. Women’s football is growing globally, and we believe we can train women players, nurturing their skills, parallel to their male counterparts.”

Cheltenham Muscat director Graeme Fisher 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.”

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