Dubai’s young footballers thrive as new DASSA programme launches

This year, a very exciting new initiative has hit the youth football scene in Dubai. GYS caught up with Chris Brown, who is the Global Director of Football for It’s Just FOOTBALL and heads up the DASSA U12 School Select programme.

The programme provides a unique opportunity for the talented young players of Dubai and is ran on a completely voluntary basis by a team of UEFA qualified coaches. We were intrigued and wanted to find out more. Chris took the time to answer a quick round of questions.

GYS: What age are the young players involved?
Chris: U12. Born Sep 2005 – Aug 2006.

GYS: Which schools are represented?
Chris: Kings' School Al Barsha, JC, Jebeli Ali School, DESC, Deira International School, Nord Anglia, Dubai College, Uptown School, DESC and JESS Ranches.

GYS: Which players were selected for the inaugural squad?
Chris: The squad is…
Ben Massingham (Jebeli Ali School), Bodie Sykes (DESC), Cormac Mulcahy JC, Darius Cassia (Nord Anglia), Edward Reynolds (Dubai College), Harrison Dupree (Jebeli Ali School), Haydn Moutarde (DESC), Henry Turner (JESS Ranches), Issa Serhan (Uptown School), Jacob Hughes (Jebeli Ali School), Jed Allan (Jebeli Ali School), Juha Leinonen (Dubai College), Killian Featherstone (Dubai College), Lewis McIver (DESC), Lucas Clementi (Jebeli Ali School), Malakai Nosworthy (Jebeli Ali School), Ryan Gourzong Jr (Deira International School), Sam Masters (DESC), Zac Jefferson (Jebeli Ali School), Zac Grundy (Dubai College), Zach Younis (DESC), Zaman Khan (JESS Ranches), Zuhair Khan (JESS Ranches), Arthur Porter (Repton).

GYS: How were the young players selected? 
Chris: PE teachers from the DASSA organization were asked to select their most talented players who were put forward for two trials where we then selected a squad of 24 players.

We always maintained that the squad would have an open-door policy. If we felt we made any mistakes by not selecting players that attended DASSA schools during the trial period then we would monitor players at their school and club games. Subsequently two additional players were welcomed into the squad.

GYS: What has the programme consisted of so far?
Chris: The training programme saw fortnightly training for the U12 squad from February until May. We set out to offer the most talented U12 players playing in the DASSA schools league an opportunity to come together and represent Dubai against other sides. During the past 9 weeks we have trained every other week with the squad (attendance has always been above 75%) and played 4 matches against Abu Dhabi Youth League Rep side (twice), Whitgift School from England and DG Pro (current JAYL U12 Champions). The most recent match we cut the squad again down to 16 players to ensure we kept a competitive environment.

We also entered the Dubai International Super Cup and finished 3rd which was the highest position of a Dubai based team in this age group.

GYS: What’s next for the U12 squad?
Chris: In July we are taking the squad to England to play against Liverpool and Blackburn at their academy training grounds and train at Everton's Finch Farm. This is in preparation for the Northern Ireland Super Cup in 2019 which we have been accepted into (formerly the Milk Cup) which is one of the most respected tournaments in the world. We would be the first UAE team to ever enter this tournament.

We then plan to take the teams away each year to play in the most prestigious tournaments across the world while preparing them with games against other representative teams and professional clubs from across this region. Ultimately we would like to provide the stage for these players to be selected to represent the UAE as the rules change within football here.

We do this by providing the best facility in the region to train at with the most highly qualified and experienced staff all free of charge.

GYS: Do you plan to grow the programme?
Chris: Next season we will start trials for the U12 & U14 DASSA age groups along with starting the U10 age group with the DAPSA organization before Christmas. We will start to train all of the squads from January.

GYS: Who has made this opportunity possible?
Chris: First and foremost, the coaches – who have given up their time. Ian Coll, Lee Mannion and Sean O'Shea have helped me run with this project and without them it wouldn’t run. Jonathan Bland at Emirates International School School has also been a big help.

As it was a voluntary project, we were delighted to supported with the purchase of kit and leisure wear for the players from Propshop Dubai and special thanks also to the facilities at NAS for their support.

GYS takes their hat off to Chris and the team for the impact they are making in the lives of these young athletes. We look forward to following the programme and bringing you more news on their progress.