Former Newcastle and Leeds goalkeeper Ben Smith to oversee the new term in Dubai
It’s Just Football (IJF) are launching their new goalkeeping academy next month where budding youngsters can train just like the professionals in Dubai.
Under the supervision of Ben Smith, a former goalkeeper for Newcastle United, Leeds and Middlesbrough, the UAE’s stars of tomorrow will be given an opportunity to learn the basics, fine-tune their techniques and improve their match performance.
Registration numbers has already been impressive but IJF are keen to attract more ahead of the new term. They are holding free try-out sessions during the week from September 9 at Dubai College and Nad Al Sheba and are inviting boys and girls between 6 and 16 years to attend.
“This is a brand new venture for us and it’s something that I am looking forward to,” said Smith, head of goalkeeping at IJF.
“During the term, children will learn the basics of goalkeeping, handling, footwork and shot stopping. What I have noticed here in the UAE is that the distribution isn’t really focused on.
“As a goalkeeper, you just have to be as good with your feet as well as the hands. I’ve noticed the goalkeepers out here need a lot of work on that and we will be focusing on that. There’s no point in keeping the ball out of the net but then give the ball away to the other. I’m looking to develop some goalkeepers and hopefully one or two can go abroad and play professional football.”
With Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among the global icons of football today, Smith admits there is a challenge to change the mindset that goalkeepers can also be superstars. And it’s one that he is relishing in the UAE.
“I think if you look from the Champions League final where Loris Karius’ mistakes cost Liverpool against Real Madrid, it shows that people are talking about how important a goalkeeper is,” added Smith.
“That is now filtering through to grassroots level and is a crucial position if you want to win stuff. For example, France had a world-class goalkeeper when they won the World Cup. Maybe that wasn’t the case 10 years ago but now a lot of people are realising that goalkeepers are integral to winning matches and titles.
“This is something that we want to address at IJF because it’s becoming a key role for clubs across the world and we want to teach children that.”
While goalkeepers of other academies are eligible to join IJF, Smith plans to tap into his contacts book and send a group to the UK to develop their skills in the future.
“In April, we will be planning on taking some of the kids to the north-east of England and watch the Newcastle United goalkeepers train as part of their development,” added Smith. “We’ll do the same at Middlesbrough as it’s important for them to keep learning and see what is needed to succeed.”
What: IJF Goalkeeping Academy
Where: Dubai College and Nad Al Sheba
When: From September 9
Contact: Visit www.itsjustfootball.com