The beautiful game

  • Share via facebook
  • Tweet this
  • Bookmark and Share
Jim Reilly, director of IFA.

Jim Reilly, director of IFA.

The footballing world has turned its eyes to the Gulf region in recent months as the controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar edges closer and closer.

But while the sport’s top brass debate whether the competition should be during the summer or winter, assess what improvements need to be made to the region’s infrastructure, and battle allegations of bribery, there are more important things happening at grass roots level.

With the influx of expats during the past decade has come an increase in football culture. Devotees of the beautiful game brought their love for the sport with them, and have been building a network of clubs, associations and academies to give amateur players a platform to play regularly, and to foster a healthier society.

One company which has been on football’s frontline in Dubai for the best part of that decade is IFA Sport, an organisation which has its roots in the community spirit that football has engendered in the UK.

IFA’s director, Jim Reilly, says: “In 2004 an individual from Liverpool came to live in Dubai, but unlike the UK found that Dubai had an exclusive football culture rather than an inclusive one.

“He had the philosophy of bringing football into the community, as it had always been in the UK where people at grass roots level went out in a field to have a kick-about.”

And so IFA was born, with the idea that, as Reilly says, “we’d go out to the local community and take football to them. We’d make it inclusive, less expensive, and open to all races and genders.”

The result? “It snowballed from then on.”

Now IFA Sport is the largest grass roots football business in the UAE, operating in more than fifteen locations, with more than 2,000 participants at their academies on a weekly basis, 400 players competing in their youth leagues, more than 20 qualified coaches, and plans to expand what they offer and grow into new markets.

Reilly explains that IFA does not just want to give people a means to play their favourite sport, but also a way to improve their fitness.

He says: “It’s not just about promoting football at youth and adult level, but also giving people the opportunity to get healthy and improve themselves that way.”

Indeed, health is a major topic of conversation in the region at present, with statistics from the  International Diabetes Federation in 2012 suggesting 18.9 percent of people in the UAE are living with diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases accounting for more than a quarter of deaths in 2011.

Reilly says: “We are committed to improving health and fitness in the UAE. The stats speak volumes. The country is the fifth in the world for obesity, many school children are overweight, and people with heart disease are 25 years younger than in the UK.

“Anything we can do to help that is good.”

Article continued on next page...

Related:
Topics
Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

  • No comments yet, be the first!

Enter the words above: Enter the numbers you hear:

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Hole in one: Golfing in Dubai

Hole in one: Golfing in Dubai

Teeing-off in Dubai is becoming ever more interesting, with several...

1
Creating an empire: Inside the world of a wellness visionary

Creating an empire: Inside the world of a wellness visionary

Arabian Business travels to Italy to learn how Technogym's Nerio...

Dhow racing in Dubai

Dhow racing in Dubai

The race to Al Gaffal will see hundreds of dhows race in Dubai...

Most Discussed
  • 16
    ‘How my Dubai mortgage landed me in a police cell’

    loans in any form need to filtered with the terms and condition, assuming thing will be in order is not excuse, one need to check with banks when property... more

    Friday, 31 October 2014 5:49 PM - Jacob
  • 10
    Do you actually own your house?

    This is unbelievable from Nakheel. In a case where we want landscape our garden with some tiles and grass costing around 12500, Nakheel is demanding a... more

    Thursday, 30 October 2014 9:06 PM - skp
  • 1
    Men arrested for working in women's shops in Saudi

    “We won’t spare any mall or shop employing expatriate men to sell women’s accessories,” the ministry’s director general in Makkah, Abdul Monem Al Shahri... more

    Friday, 31 October 2014 12:22 PM - cba