Sharjah FC took top honours at the most diverse youth football tournament in the Middle East as it drew to a dramatic conclusion in Abu Dhabi.
Of the 130 teams that participated, six teams were victorious in their respective age-group finals at the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup. The winners were: Manchester City Academy in the under 8s, City Football Schools Abu Dhabi in the under 10s, City Football Schools Abu Dhabi in the under 12s, Melbourne City Academy in the under 14s, Sharjah FC in the under 16s, and Abu Dhabi Thistle won the girls’ under-14s age group.
The six trophy-winning teams will get a special coaching session from Manchester City club coaches, with Sharjah FC being drawn at random from the winners for the special prize of a trip-of-a-lifetime to the Etihad Campus, the home of Manchester City.
Speaking about their win, the coach of Sharjah FC, Daniel Petru Huza, said: “It’s incredible and I feel emotional. I can’t wait to travel to Manchester to see what it’s all about as I heard it’s a fantastic academy facility – we feel super lucky for this opportunity.
“This year we have seen a larger field with more age groups entering and it’s great to have girls joining the competition too.”
Following a superb performance, the winners will travel to the Etihad Campus in Manchester where they will get the chance 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 Middle East Head of Football Operations, Simon Hewitt said: “This has been the third edition of this fantastic weekend of football and the biggest to date. The Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup has welcomed 130 teams, comprising thousands of boys and girls of all ages from all around the world and has been an incredible event for everybody.
“There has been an excellent atmosphere generated by both spectators and players across both days and we are delighted that so many teams came to Abu Dhabi to participate.”
Teams from Uganda, Australia, Romania, Sri Lanka, South Africa, the GCC, and UAE, as well as Manchester City’s Academy team, took part in the two-day event.
Jason Wilcox, Manchester City Academy Director, said at the tournament: “This has been a first-class weekend of international youth football and what has impressed me most is the level of sportsmanship on display. Not just from the players themselves but from their supporters and families too – it’s been very impressive to witness. Representing our Academy from Manchester, it’s good to participate in events outside the UK and see the quality of football being played in this region. The competition this year has been outstanding from that perspective.
“In addition, I have great appreciation for the organisation and effort that went into making sure that the thousands of children from lots of different nationalities and countries were able to enjoy the excellent facilities of Abu Dhabi, play football and learn important lessons on what competitive football is all about.
Wilcox added: “Travelling from Manchester for seven hours on a plane to a totally new environment and playing in warm temperatures is good for our Academy players’ development and provides a unique experience that they will benefit from in the long term. To play against teams from other cultures and backgrounds provides priceless experience for all the children and won’t be forgotten.”