Up close and personal with the team.
“Hilal or Nasr?” is Riyadh’s most asked question, if the fights between the fans are anything to go by. And seeing as Al Hilal is Riyadh’s fighting champion, we decided to see what it’s like for their youth players to be training in the footsteps of such a highly respected team. Oh, and… GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!
When was the youth club founded?
In 1980 we founded the first football school in Saudi Arabia, and it had great success in player productivity and youth care.
Can you give an example of a regular training day for the team?
It depends. Weekly training sessions differ according to age. There are six different categories in the youth program, and the age is 9-14. From 9-11 years, they train about six hours a week and from 12-14 about 10 hours weekly.
What are the educational requirements for the players?
There aren’t certain educational requirements, but the football club does ask for midterm exam grades and the final results from the players as a regular follow up on their education, as well as reward the children with the highest marks. The club also provides health and game rule lectures, as well as general culture talks.
Are there any plans in set for the players’ future? What requirements to they have to be able to transition to the main team?
The youth players are considered amateur footballers at this stage. The club does provide transportation, as well as football kits. Also, the players get enrolled in the Medical Sports Hospital for check ups.
As for the requirements, a player needs to bypass the different age groups, and his performance in those levels will be an indicator on whether or not he will be able to make it to the first team.
What do the players do to get in the club? Are they scouted or do they apply?
The club generally opens applications for new players, and eligibility depends on the apparent skills the child might display that we feel could be developed into something more. We also have scouts that collaborate with us on finding potential players, and we sometimes receive tips from P.E. teachers we’d previously collaborated with.
How do the players describe their experience of being in the club?
They love it, mostly because our players are huge fans of the sport and some of them, their dreams come true by getting chosen by the team.
What benefits or perks do the players receive by being a member of the youth Hilal team?
The care and interest of the club in the player with him being a member, concentrated healthcare and educational follow ups, as well as awards the children might receive after a match.
Do the children ever get to meet the members of the main Hilal team?
Yes, they do. The members of the first team do follow up with the youth club, by visiting their matches to encourage the children. Also, the youth training sessions are right before the first team’s, which occasionally allows the children to observe the first team’s training.