It’s not easy to make life-changing decisions, more so when it comes to the world of football where a professional player can become the next global star and make millions of dollars.
Footballers start training at the age of six in the hope of becoming a professional player, but they face the risk of being cut from the program at any time as coaches are asked to select the best candidates to stay on, every three or four months. As years go by, the number of players becomes smaller until they reach the U18 squad. Then, they will either be promoted to the senior team and receive a proper salary or just let go.
Coaches and managers have to conduct multiple training exercises before making their decisions as they don’t want to let go of any player who might have potential. “It’s very hard because we don’t want to lose someone who might be the next Amoory or Caio as this will cost us a lot if another club takes him and promotes him,” Mohammed Aljassimi, Alwasl U18 football head coach, said in an interview.
It’s also tough on coaches as they have to tell players who had worked for years to become professional footballers that they won’t be selected to pursue that dream. “I have players who cry when I tell them the news, and some deny it and search for new clubs as football is their life,” said Aljassimi.
“I have been playing since I was five, all I know is football and I don’t see myself anywhere else. I have put a lot of effort and have made it to this point,” Omar Kushashi, a 17-year-old Emirati Alwasl U18 footballer, said in a phone interview. Many players share his opinion on the matter as they have invested most of their lives hoping to step into the main stage with the professionals.
There are also many players who will be cut when they reach the age of 18, as the senior team can only take a handful, and sometimes only one person, from an entire team. “Most of the players really believed they were going to make it, so it becomes hard for them to move on and go to university or the military”, Rashid Al Zaabi, Alwasl Youth football director, said in a phone interview.
Many Emirati young footballers join the military as they view it as their best option for a future career. “When AlAhli let me go last year, I decided to join the military so that I can stay fit and do something I like, which is defending my country”, Said Yousef Adham, former AlAhli U18 football player and student at the University of Dubai, said in a phone interview. “It was hard at first to accept the fact that I was let go, but because all my teammates were also let go, I didn’t feel like I was alone”.
Yet, there are alternative options if some of the young players want to keep playing football even if they are not selected to pursue this as a career. It may not offer them a career in professional football, but playing that sport at universities can still offer some benefits. Universities sometimes offer scholarships for footballers.
“I’m aiming to apply to AUD and play football if the club does not promote me this year”, Omar Alblooshi, a 17-year-old Emirati Alwasl U18 footballer, said in an interview. “It will allow me to continue playing football while studying for free to follow my path in business and become a businessman in the future.”