Dubai – MENA Herald: The Football Academy (TFA) has returned from an exhilarating week at the Gothia Cup in Sweden. The tournament took place between 17th – 24th July, and Coach Ali El Jishi has shared his thoughts on his team’s successes and struggles throughout the matches.

The Gothia Cup began in 1975 with 275 teams from 5 nations competing to win their league. This year, the competition hosted an astonishing 1,709 teams from 80 nations who played 4,170 games and scored a staggering 18,208 goals. This significant growth means that the competition is now referred to by some as “The Youth World Cup”. The Ullevi Stadium – Sweden’s largest with a capacity of 46,000 sitting and 2,000 more inner field spectators – holds the opening ceremony and finals of the tournament every year. This year’s Gothia Cup spectators filled the entire arena.

Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Listaproperty whose name featured on the team kit, Ali was able to take the TFA players to Sweden to compete in the tournament. There, the team had the opportunity to play football at a high level, develop their skills and discover new tactics from their international opponents. Over the course of the tournament, the players were also challenged to apply a new strategy to each game which helped them to improve their mental strength within sport.

Having previously coached Dubai’s Desert Rangers, and as the recently appointed coach of TFA, Ali’s experience in youth football helped him to create the strategies for his team’s inclusion in the Gothia Cup. Under Ali’s guidance, the TFA scored some impressive goals, and the highlight of the week was the team’s first goal scored by Keagan Humphries. Keagan scored in the TFA’s second match against one of Norway’s top performing teams, Lillestrøm SK, whose home ground is only 300km from where The Gothia Cup takes place.

Top player Ziyad Fakhuri was plagued with injuries in the months prior to the tournament and made a brave recovery in order the compete in the Gothia Cup. This is a fine example of the determination and passion seen amongst Ali’s young players, and a tribute to the strength of the coach’s mentoring skills.

In both their third match against IFK Falkoping FF and fourth match against Roanoke Star, TFA lost out after their opponents scored single goals very late into the match. Dubai summer temperatures meant that TFA were unable to train outside in the run up to the tournament. Competing against teams who can train outdoors throughout the year put TFA on the back foot when it came to stamina and enduring the elements. Ali suggested this was a factor in his team not winning the cup, but was proud to say that they played in the Boys 16 (B16) group in which only 2 of his players were of age, and put up a strong fight against their older competitors.

Coach Ali says of his team’s performance at the Gothia Cup “This was our first international tournament. We competed with youth teams of the highest level. We saw, we learnt, we will go again.”

The Gothia Cup winners in the B16 league were American team Viva Las Vegas. A full list of results from the tournament can be found here.

Sponsor Rasha Nashaat, co-founder of Listaproperty says of the team’s participation in the tournament “Listaproperty would like to applaude the young TFA players for their participation in The Gothia Cup and for the enthusiasm they showed throughout the tournament. We are passionate about supporting the cultural, social and economic growth of the Middle East region through #MEyouth and #MEgrowth, as the youth of any country are the drive for the success of it. In order to keep contributing to this initiative, we hope that our sponsorship of TFA’s participation in The Gothia Cup will continue annually.”

Later on this year, TFA will be venturing to Orlando to compete again and will be under an intensive training regime in preparation for this.