September 13 - 19, 2017

Gulf Weekly Stan Szecowka
By Stan Szecowka


BAHRAIN is to stage the opening GCC Youth Champions League tournament, a footballing bonanza featuring regional academies representing some of the most elite European teams.

The new Juventus (J) Academy Bahrain will host an U10 event next month at its home at Saar Cultural and Sports Club against teams wearing the colours of Celtic, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Roma and Arsenal.

Some of the footballing giants have academies in several countries, such as the J Academy which boasts bases in neighbouring Oman, Kuwait and Dubai too, and all will be sending squads to participate.

J Academy Bahrain’s head coach Andy Collins, organising the opening extravaganza, said: “It will be fun, entertaining with a sporting and competitive edge ... and, of course, eventually some well-earned bragging rights for players, coaches and the club academies they represent.”

The October tournament will be followed by similar ones for other age groups with the U10s staged in Dubai, U12s in Abu Dhabi, U16s in Kuwait and the U8s in Oman.

All points gained from each tournament will be added to the mix and counted up at the end to find the overall champions. But there will also be honours to be picked up involving talent and sportsmanship.

They’ll be points for placing in every age group and in a similar way to the point scoring Formula One motor sport system, all will get added up over the period of competitions. The question will be: which academy will prove to be the Mercedes or Ferrari? The most competitive academy across all age groups will eventually take the title.

“It will also mean that all the U16s players and families will be supporting and checking on the scores when the U12s play, for example, and visa-versa, supporting their academy as they compete in each tournament because every game will count at the end of the day,” Collins added.

The new season opened this week at J Academy Bahrain with coaching sessions and match days and its director, John Mackenzie, was delighted with the enthusiasm shown by football crazy boys and girls with hundreds signing up during the summer and numbers increasing daily as students settle back into their regular school and sporting routine.

“It’s very exciting and already the players are immersing themselves in the Juventus mythology and coaching techniques,” added Mackenzie.

The coaching squad is also made up of Josh Seddon, 22, Stacey Armstrong, 19, Daniel Grimes, 20, Caitlyn Beavors, 19, and Jordan Stephens, 22, and they have all were given the thumbs up by Marco Degortes, Juventus Academy’s head coach – brand, licensing and retail, who flew into Bahrain last week for a second visit from Turin where the Italian giants are based.

 “The Juventus method focuses on the children, not just talking about the tactical or technical aspects of football,” Degortes told GulfWeekly as he was pictured with the Bahrain team of coaches last week, “we’re talking about their physical, emotional well-being and psychological growth too - we can give them the opportunities to develop essential skills for their successful futures.

“Juventus is not just a football club or an academy, it’s a family. It’s a sort of lifestyle, and we want to share with them our values, we want them to grow and be brave, we want them to be bold and we want them to be different … we want them to be Juventus!”

They will have a lot to live up to. Juventus maintained their perfect start to the Serie A season with a 3-0 home win over Chievo last weekend capped by a superb individual goal from Paulo Dybala. The champions have taken nine points from their opening three games as they chase a seventh successive title.

Juventus’s new signings Wojciech Szczesny, Blaise Matuidi and Douglas Costa were given their first starts as coach Massimiliano Allegri rotated his team before last night’s Champions League visit to Barcelona.

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