Dubai: Getting to see Ronaldo is a dream come true for these youngsters

Among the 44 kids from a local football academy was Ali, a one-year-old boy with special needs

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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(From left) James Masterman, Managing Partner of SK Football Academy, Alix, Ali and Alfie. — Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty
(From left) James Masterman, Managing Partner of SK Football Academy, Alix, Ali and Alfie. — Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sun 21 Jan 2024, 9:22 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 Jan 2024, 10:31 PM

With guests arriving in their most gorgeous outfits, the Globe Soccer Awards on Friday night looked more like a beauty pageant than a football event.

But in the back row of the plush hall at Atlantis, a group of children in their football jerseys caught the eye.

These kids from Dubai’s SK Football Academy were invited to attend the star-studded event which rolled out the red carpet for the Who’s Who of football, including Fabio Capello, John Terry, Argentina’s World Cup-winning coach Lionel Scaloni, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Norwegian phenomenon Erling Haaland.

But the biggest attraction of the night was none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

“It has made the kids’ dream come true. Football is so big and getting to meet their heroes is just a dream come true for them and we are so happy to make it happen,” Ben McBride, managing partner of SK Football Academy, told the Khaleej Times.

The high-profile event had a dress code for guests, but McBride said bringing the kids in their football jerseys was a move that’s close to his heart.

“In SK Football, we believe in the power of football. We were asked to dress smart, but we said, ‘look, we are a football academy’, and they agreed. So we are happy to be in our football colours,” he said.

Among the happy kids from the academy was Ali, an 11-year-old boy with special needs.

“My family is from Egypt, so everyone in the family loves Mo Salah. I love him too, he is my favourite player,” said Ali who is part of the SK champions programme, ‘For players of determination’.

“I have followed him (Salah) from the very beginning of his career. I remember his first game for Liverpool. So to see him grow and become a legend and break records, it’s amazing.”

But Ali says he will cherish the moment he saw Ronaldo for the first time on the stage in Dubai.

“Every football fan watches Ronaldo and Messi on YouTube. So it’s amazing to see Ronaldo here in Dubai,” he smiled.

Alix, a 15-year-old Belgian expat, says she can’t wait to get back to school and brag about seeing Ronaldo in person.

“It was amazing. I could not believe my eyes. It was incredible, he is one of my idols,” said Alix.

For Alfie, an 11-year-old English expat who moved to Dubai from Manchester only six months ago with his parents, club loyalties took a back seat when Man United legend Ronaldo appeared on the stage. “I am from Manchester and Man City is my club, not Man United,” said Alfie.

“But I still like Ronaldo a lot. He is a very big legend of the very big clubs he has played for. I think he is a very good player. Every football fan loves him because he has won so many trophies,” said Alfie, a midfielder who idolises Man City superstar Kevin de Bruyne.

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