A group of young players from New York City FC have spoken of their hopes for the future after taking part in special coaching sessions with local school children in Abu Dhabi this week.
The boys and girls, who all attend City Football Schools in the UAE capital, were put through their paces on the pitch at Zayed Sports City by Jack Harrison, Rodney Wallace and Sean Johnson, who are in Abu Dhabi as part of an Etihad Airways promotional tour.
NYC FC had a successful 2017, finishing second in the MLS Eastern Conference, and overall, before reaching the play=off semi-finals.
Harrison has been one the stars of the season for NYC FC, his performances leading to a call up to the England U21 squad.
“It was a big surprise, I wasn’t expecting them to be looking so far out for the U21s,” he said. “But it was great honour and I was very grateful for the opportunity. Whilst being there at camp it was very encouraging to see where I was at compared to the other players my age. It was a great experience and I’m hoping for more opportunities like that in the future.”
Another one of the team’s standout players, Wallace has had a year a 2017 to remember after helping Costa Rica reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“It’s great accomplishment, one of the biggest in my career,” he said. “I’m not there yet but to be able to qualify, to have that sensation after such a long qualifying stage, it’s relieving, but also at the same time there’s more preparation for work.”
Wallace credits his time at NYC FC for improving him as an individual and preparing him for the international football.
“It’s definitely helped me grow as a player a lot and I think with a successful year that we had and the experienced team that we built, I think all that was fundamental for my international success this year,” said Wallace.
NYC FC are majority owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s City Football Group, which also owns Manchester City FC and Melbourne City FC.
“It is fantastic to have such incredibly talented young players at City Football Schools. The New York City FC team has showed them what it takes to get to the top,” City Football School’s Head Coach, Simon Hewitt, said. “Our aim is to develop skills, character and teamwork and having stars like Jack, Sean and Rodney with us for the day truly helps that.”
Speaking after the coaching session, Harrison said: “It has been a great honour to be a part of the coaching session at City Football Schools in Abu Dhabi. The youngsters have been a delight to work with and are all very talented. The coaching set-up is very impressive and it is so important when you are starting out. Getting the basic skills right is a massive part of being a great player.”
The young trainees were eager to take make the most out of this opportunity to train with professionals.
“It was so great to be coached by the players from New York City FC today, it has taught me a lot and I really look up to them,” said nine-year-old Robert. “I’ve always dreamt of what it would be like to be a professional footballer and I would like to follow in their footsteps when I grow up.”
The players seemed to enjoy the whole experience before the serious business of preparing for the new season starts again.
“It’s my first time in Abu Dhabi, it’s spectacular place,” said Wallace. “We have managed to see a lot of sights while we have been here however it’s been fantastic to come and coach the young children here today. Being at New York City FC has taught me so much and I’m really happy I get the chance to pass what I have learnt on to the next generation!”