Champions were crowned as the most exciting youth football tournament in the Middle East came to a dramatic conclusion in Abu Dhabi last night.
Four teams won the various age-group finals at the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup – The winners were City Football Schools Abu Dhabi in the under 8s, Tekkers Academy (Bahrain) in the under 10s, Melbourne City Academy in the under 12s and CS Luceafarul Cluj (Romania) in the under 14s.
All will get a special coaching session from club coaches and it was Romanian team CS Luceafarul Cluj who were drawn at random for the trip of a lifetime to the Etihad Campus, the home of Manchester City FC.
Speaking about their win CS Luceafarul Cluj’s team coach Vinau Gigi said: “It’s our first time taking part in the Abu Dhabi Cup and it’s been a brilliant experience for both me and the children. We’ve travelled from Romania to attend the tournament and everything has been excellent, it’s another world for us.
“Coming here is a new experience for all the children taking part this weekend and they have had a great time. I cannot wait to see the faces of all the children when we get to Manchester and I’m also excited to see what they learn from the trip. I just want to thank the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup for having us and we hope to be back next year.”
Fresh from their win Under 14 team captain Razvan from CS Luceafarul Cluj also added: “It’s really great to have won the tournament and a trip to Manchester, it’s something different for us and we are all very happy. One of my best moments of the weekend was when we won the big final and we are all so happy to have won. Scoring the goal that won us the game was such a thrill.
“None of us have been to Manchester before so it will be amazing to go and experience it for ourselves. My favourite player is Vincent Kompany so I hope I can get to meet him when I am there, he inspires me a lot!”
The team will now travel to the Etihad Campus in Manchester where they will get to play and train at the same facilities as Manchester City’s captain Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne.
Commenting on the tournament City Football’s Head of Operations, Simon Hewitt said: “We have had over two and a half thousand young players and spectators enjoying an absolutely fantastic weekend of football in Abu Dhabi. The response has been excellent and the atmosphere around the pitches was great. To see so many competing in Abu Dhabi and engage with the Manchester City family is just wonderful.”
One of the young footballers competing at the Cup was Juventus Academy captain Abdullah who travelled from Kuwait said: “It’s my first time in Abu Dhabi and I’ve loved every minute of it, it’s been a great journey getting here. The whole team have loved the organization, preparation and training for the Cup.
“Since I have been here I have met lots of children from around the globe, and it’s taught me that there’s a lot more I can learn from them.”
“We played good games today, won some and lost some, but it’s a great event for playing football and we had a lot fun doing it.”
Teams from across the globe including Manchester City’s Academy team, who flew in especially to compete, took part in the two-day event. Talking about the Abu Dhabi Cup, Jason Wilcox, Manchester City Academy Director said: “The event has been fantastic, I think to represent our Academy from Manchester and come here and see the work that has gone into the Abu Dhabi Cup is phenomenal. There are hundreds of children, from lots of different nationalities and countries, enjoying themselves, playing football and having fun, which is amazing to see.
“What has been really good is that there has been all sorts of levels of ability; the way the staff have structured the competition is that everybody will finish up at some point playing team of their level and they can be competitive and win something or have a chance to win something.”
Wilcox added: “For me it’s really important that we take part in events outside the UK and support events like this for many reasons and it’s also important for our team to sample not only the football in different environments but also experience the cultural side of different countries as well. I think for our team to have travelled over seven hours to get here then have to go and play is a great experience and builds up their resilience.
“The facilities are unbelievable here, which is one aspect of it but on the flipside they have to deal with the temperatures and prepare for their games correctly – get in the shade, eating properly and conducting their self and representing their football club every minute of the day when they’re wearing the Manchester City team kit. It is really important for me to see how they have coped with everything so far and so far they have made me really proud.”
In addition to hosting world-class events and developing world-class infrastructure the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi showcases the Emirate as a tourist destination in its own right. Their vision is to position the Emirate as a leading international sporting destination along with Abu Dhabi Sports Council and valued stakeholders.
Mr. Sultan Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri, Executive Director - Tourism Sector, Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi said: “We are very proud to partner with Manchester City FC on the second annual Abu Dhabi Cup. This year has seen a great increase in participating teams with 1,400 young footballers coming to Abu Dhabi for the event from a great variety of regions including the UK, Sri Lanka, Romania, Australia and the GCC to name a few. We hope these ‘footballing stars of tomorrow’ enjoy the tournament as much as we enjoy hosting them.
As the official destination partner of Manchester City FC, we look forward to working closely with City Football Schools to continue to grow this tournament and share the Abu Dhabi experience with a global audience of youth teams and their families and coaching staff.”
Etihad Airways Executive Vice President Commercial, Mohammad Al Bulooki, said: “Etihad strongly believes in youth empowerment through sports, and the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup not only promotes an active and healthy lifestyle, but instils in youth life-long skills such as the importance of teamwork and discipline.”