ABU DHABI, At least 11 Al Jazira academy players have signed their first professional contracts since June 2020 to take the initial step in their career and set themselves up for the senior team.
With the club sitting top of the Arabian Gulf League table, the ever-growing reliance on youngsters and continuing to bring young players through the academy can be more than justified as the club continues to cement its legacy in promoting home-grown talents.
“Al Jazira Academy has a stellar track record that shows how we develop players to join the first team and the UAE national team, which are two of the main benchmarks in terms of judging an academy’s value contribution like our first team match recently against Shabab Al Ahli, where 13 of 20 players in the match squad were home grown players,” said Mads Davidsen, Al Jazira Club’s sporting director.
As one of the strongest youth football academies in the region, Al Jazira Club’s football academy entered into a partnership with FIFA’s Talent Development Programme, which aims to promote young players and recognise academies with a track record in graduating young players to senior teams.
As part of the programme, academies undergo on-site and online analysis of their programmes, number of graduated players, facilities, training methods, curriculum and coaching and managing staff. Every academy then receives an individual report with clear findings, benchmarks and recommendations.
Al Jazira academy functions with an eye on the future of the first team and through a long-term plan that focuses on developing young people on both the sporting and personal fronts.
“We envision our academy to be the destination of choice for football talents all over the UAE. We aim to instil loyalty and passion for the club in young players and develop them to compete at the highest national and international levels, whilst nurturing them to become good people by providing them with the best educational system,” said Al Jazira CEO Ali Al Hammadi.
“We want to work with our partners to help academy graduates kickstart their careers by granting them professional contracts to carry on to become winners, fulfil their potential, inspire the next generation of footballers. While doing this, our target also remains to preserve the club’s rights and achievements in line with our future strategy of introducing a new professional culture that supports players in their journey to learn, develop and reach their goals” he added.
Opening its doors youngsters in 2004, Al Jazira Academy has been consistently graduating players into the club’s senior fold while feeding the UAE national teams with talent. Over the last three seasons only, the prolific academy has graduated 17 players into the first team, with at least six of them regularly starting for Al Jazira. Of the players representing the UAE national team across the youth age groups all the way to U-23, at least 24 players graduated from Al Jazira Academy, with another seven in the senior national team.
“Al Jazira’s academy has one of the highest rates of producing homegrown players in the UAE,” said Al Jazira Football Academy’s technical director Wael El Sisy. “Each academy in the country is expected to graduate an average of 1.5 players per season to the first team. Al Jazira’s average at the moment stands at 3.7 – higher than any club in the country.”
“Al Jazira Academy is the only one in the UAE to have a school curriculum, which means players spend the whole day at the academy taking classes, receiving nutritional meals while training as footballers all in the same place. This gives us a better chance to develop the mental, physical and technical aspects of our players. Of the 285 players currently registered in the academy, 105 are enrolled in the school,” added El Sisy.
Being able to consistently produce refined players for the first team means a certain level of facilities and equipment must be in place for the youngsters to thrive. Al Jazira Academy’s three-floor building comprises academic classrooms, kitchen, library, meeting room, clinic, gym on the ground floor. The first floor, meanwhile, includes coaching and admin staff rooms and resting rooms for academy students, while the second floor provides hotel-like accommodation for non-Abu Dhabi based students.
The academy features a main pitch and five secondary ones that differ in area to cater for the different age groups, with another full-size pitch to be added soon. A new gym, sloping hill and speed court will help youngsters work on physical aspects such as strength, stamina and explosive speed.
Al Jazira has a long-term project that revolves around young players and promoting home-grown talent, and the academy is at the heart of that strategy. Working closely with ADNOC, the academy aims to develop a generation of talented footballers in a progressive, collaborative, responsible and efficient manner.
“As a footballer taking the first steps of my career, the academy has been an integral part of my formation. The years I spent at Al Jazira Academy have developed me physically and technically as a player and prepared me for life at the first team and the challenges of being a professional footballer,” said Ahmed Fawzi, who recently signed a professional contract after graduating from Al Jazira’s academy.
With more young players joining the first team from the academy, Davidsen said, Al Jazira has managed to drop the first team squad’s average age from 26 to 23.8 years old this season, which helps the club plan for the long term.
Source: Emirates News Agency