Former African Player Of The Year talks about his new football academy
The former West Ham United footballer talks about Dubai Sports World, his football academy and athletic achievements.
KAFO Academy is back at Dubai Sports World (DSW) this year. Why teach youth football in Dubai? It’s been a really successful year, we started with a few kids at Dubai Sports World last year and we ended up with more than 100 at the end of the season. There’s a big love for football here. I wanted to share the experience I gained playing throughout the world. I’ve played in France, England, Spain and even China. Dubai is a little mix of all these cultures.
You’ve retired from professional football, but do you still play for fitness or fun? I’ve never been a good supporter of any one team. I still enjoy football and I’ve organised an adult’s league, we play every week at Nord Anglia International School. I also play at charity matches and I’m currently playing in Bahrain for a Ramadan match.
You fast during Ramadan. How difficult is that when you are training? It’s difficult fasting without training, so imagine doing it when you are playing sport. I think it’s a good opportunity for players to have more discipline, be professional and train their character and determination. We have kids at the academy who are fasting, but thankfully we are indoors, so its a little easier. I’d recommend doing it right when fasting – have breakfast early in the morning before the sun rises and eat properly after sunset.
Your former team West Ham United are moving into Olympic Stadium in London. Do you have any favourite memories of the old ground, Upton Park? I guess some people will be sad about the club moving but I think the club is going one step forward. I have a soft spot for the club because it’s the first club I went to after I left my hometown.
What’s your greatest sporting achievement? I think it was when I arrived in Seville. In my first year, we won the UEFA Cup and it was the Europa League. Before that, they hadn’t won anything major, and during my time there I won seven titles. Being named African Player of the Year in 2007 was a highlight.
What do you miss most about playing professionally? It’s something I do miss sometimes. I’ve been asked to play again and although it was really tempting, in the end I decided to just focus on what I’m doing now at the academy. I find passing my skills on to other people really exciting. I don’t think I’d go back to the game now, I’m getting too old.
What’s next for the academy? Hopefully opening one or two more venues in Dubai and I’d like to increase the number of kids attending and improve the overall quality of teams here. Dhs100 per day, Dhs495 per week. Sun-Thu 1pm-4pm. Until August 29. KAFO Academy at Dubai Sports World, Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 306 4000).