LaLiga Academy UAE, the first of LaLiga’s 9 international academies, opened in 2015, has set a new milestone by reaching 1,000 registrations this 2022, a figure it plans to surpass in 2023. This academy has helped raise the level of grassroots soccer development in the region, being recognized for three years in a row at contests such as the SPIA awards, the annual awards that identify the most outstanding sports projects in the Middle East, in categories such as Best Sports Youth Academy in the region or Best Youth Development Project.
Its high-performance programs have been producing a steady stream of talent for clubs in the region and internationally. Among the more than 2,500 athletes trained at its sites in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are players who are now pursuing careers in high-performance soccer: more than 20 are playing with UAE national clubs, others are competing with international clubs, and several players have won scholarships to combine studies and high-level competitive sport at universities in the United States. In addition, LaLiga Academy HPC’s senior team has achieved official club status and competes in the UAE Second Division.
“Year after year we have observed how the level of our permanent projects, as well as that of the players who participate in them, continues to improve and take steps forward, and this has a positive impact on the sporting and competitive development of the region. We are committed to early identification activities and the development of international talent, as grassroots football is an area where LaLiga and its clubs’ youth academies are world leaders. The accumulated experience of more than 550 projects in more than 40 countries, and the level of our coaches help to promote regions where there is a lot of football talent and an exponentially growing love of football, such as in the United Arab Emirates,” states Juan Florit, Head of Sports Projects at LaLiga Grassroots.
“The backing of an organisation such as LaLiga is fundamental in this case, as through LaLiga, grassroots football in the region has access to a network of resources from one of the best leagues in the world, as well as its clubs, which facilitates the exchange of knowledge and the management of talent. Now we can also add the resources and special attention that LaLiga is dedicating to grassroots football through LaLiga Grassroots, and the connection of global projects with our new programmes in Madrid, developed at the ESC LaLiga & NBA Centre: LaLiga Academy and LaLiga Talents. MENA (Middle East and North Africa) is one of the regions where the growth of football is very strong here” says Francisco Javier Hernández, Head of Business and International Development at LaLiga Grassroots.
LaLiga Academy UAE is currently at the centre of LaLiga’s news: During the World Cup break, LaLiga clubs will take advantage of the opportunity to immerse themselves in the MENA region. Therefore, they will travel to Dubai, where a General Assembly is scheduled to take place. At this assembly, the clubs will learn more about the unique features of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This initiative aims to facilitate the internationalisation of clubs in these countries and to help them reach out to local fans, something where grassroots football has been a key tool. Gaining first-hand knowledge of the entertainment consumption habits of its inhabitants, the sports industry and the type of companies that operate in the region will be key for LaLiga clubs to better direct their efforts when it comes to expanding in this market.
Young talent awarded scholarship to study at LaLiga Academy Madrid
Ghadi Alanadary, a player trained at LaLiga Academy UAE, was the winner in the Emirates this season for a full training scholarship in Spain for LaLiga Tryouts, the scouting and talent development programme launched in 2022 by LaLiga Grassroots. This is a pioneering scouting programme for young talent around the world, which was developed last season in places such as the United Arab Emirates, Puerto Rico or Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic.
In December 2021, some of the best talent from the UAE region underwent a series of tryouts in front of the LaLiga Grassroots team of coaches and scouts, who selected the top 27 as finalists for the scholarship. The UAE was the first stop for LaLiga Tryouts, but after different events in other countries in June 2022, the global winner was chosen from a total of more than 1000 participants. In addition to this, full scholarships were awarded during other selection and talent spotting processes in other countries such as Mexico. New tryouts are expected to be held globally in 2023 to award more scholarships.
The winner of the scholarship, Ghadi Alanadary, will have his academic and sporting education covered during the 2022-23 academic year at LaLiga Academy Madrid, the long-term academic-sports programme at the new ESC LaLiga & NBA Complex, the flagship centre for grassroots football in Madrid serving LaLiga clubs and which houses these new LaLiga Grassroots programmes for young players in the capital.