Just ask 11-year-old George Cairns what he wants for his birthday or for Christmas, and you’ll get the same answer every time. ‘He wants a new football and a new strip – it never changes,’ says his father Mick, who is currently coaching George, his younger brother Harvey and their respective football teams in preparation for the Dubai Football Sevens, which opens March 11.
The brothers, who will play for former Newcastle and England manager Kevin Keegan’s sponsored under-nines and under-12s teams, are, to put it mildly, football crazy.
‘I play four times a week – and more if there are matches on. I just love it,’ George says. ‘I don’t get tired of it because it’s so much fun.’ His younger brother Harvey, aged eight, is equally enthusiastic. ‘You make friends and you get fit,’ he says. ‘There are some hoggers on my team – but I’m not one of them. I play midfield, which means I get to do lots of running around. I love that.’
Mick, who’s been a football coach for four years, is a former amateur footballer and is impressed by the opportunities Dubai offers young budding Beckhams. ‘I started training the boys when George was four-and-a-half and Harvey was two-and-a-half. It’s great because Dubai offers loads of opportunities for kids who want to get involved with football. There are plenty of clubs you can join and there are leagues to play in, too. An added bonus is that all the coaches teaching the kids are qualified to do just that. They’re not just doing it as a hobby.’
For the Cairns boys, that’s all part of the excitement. Like most young players, they were delighted recently when they had the opportunity to attend a training session coached by Keegan, who is providing the team with strips for the Sevens, although Harvey admits he was so starstruck by the experience, that at first he didn’t believe it was him. ‘I thought Dad was joking when he said Kevin Keegan was going to train us. And when I met him, I didn’t recognise him. I thought he was just someone’s dad.’
But, despite that, the session went well – and both boys are clearly thrilled at the experience. ‘It was really exciting meeting him,’ says George. ‘He trained us for an hour – and he was really nice.’ Harvey adds, ‘I learned a lot from him – especially about keeping on my toes and using my arms to help me balance.’
It seems that, despite the number of glamorous players on the international football scene, George, a defender, is more impressed by skill than showmanship. ‘Alan Shearer is my favourite footballer, because he’s the all-time premier league top goal scorer. He’s brilliant!’
The boys are also hopeful for their chances at the Sevens, which will see many of footie’s big names converge in Dubai for the premier competition, while the amateurs battle it out in their own league. ‘I think we have a good chance of coming at least third,’ says George of his under 12s team. Harvey is just as confident – and is excited at the prospect of meeting the football stars, although his favourite player, Fernando Torres, is unlikely to be there due to current season commitments. ‘He’s Liverpool’s striker – I’d like to meet him the most,’ he says.
Dubai Football Sevens
When? Thursday March 11 to Saturday March 13
Where? The Dubai Sevens Stadium, Dubai-Al Ain Road
Teams? Eight professional, six ‘legend’ and 300 amateur teams
Who’ll be there? An estimated 3,000 players, including AC Milan, Arsenal, Olympiacos, Celtic and other professional clubs, along with a host of football legends including Ian Rush, Paul Walsh, Pierre van Hooijdonk, Kerry Dixon and Gordon Durie representing Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Rangers and Chelsea to name a few.
Who can go? Footie fanatics, obviously, but like the Dubai Rugby Sevens, the Dubai Football Sevens is a family event. The village area will be a hive of colour and activity with plenty on offer to keep all ages entertained, including a special kids’ area with inflatable games, face painting and more.