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Juve heading in.

ITALIAN footballing giants Juventus will be opening an academy for young players on the island ... replacing English FA Cup finalists Arsenal who have had a successful franchised soccer school on the island for the past seven years.

Two of Arsenal Soccer School Bahrain's (ASSB) stalwarts will be swapping shirts and coaching styles. Head coach John Mackenzie and senior coach Andy Collins will be travelling to Turin in the summer for an extensive briefing and will return with two Italian coaches from the acclaimed J Academy as part of the new set up.

ASSB started in 2010 under franchise and the English Premiership club has recently 'restructured' its international operations. Alternative options were looked at and a deal struck to bring a taste of the training prowess of the Italian champions, Italian Cup and Champions League finalists to the kingdom.

Delighted Abdul Wahed Al Kooheji, CEO of Juventus Academy Bahrain and managing director of International Business Group, said: "I'm very excited about bringing such a huge club to the island. Juventus are one of the leading football clubs in the world and the new academy will provide an environment for young players to learn how to improve and develop their technical and tactical abilities."

ASAB, based at Saar Cultural and Sports Club, has around 400 youngsters on its books and all existing pupils will be treated to a free famous black & white striped Adidas jersey to replace the red & white tops of Arsenal when they sign up for the new term in September.

Stunned pupils and parents were told of the developments this morning. A note from John, Andy and the team, said: "From July 1 we will be starting a new and exciting adventure with Juventus Football Club.

"We have been talking to a number of Premier League, Spanish and Italian clubs over the last couple of months and although they showed interest, the decision to move to Juventus was made easy by their professionalism and the opportunities they offer."

John and Andy said they were looking forward to 'immersing themselves in the Juventus mythology and coaching techniques'.

The Juventus youth set-up has been recognised as one of the best in Italy for producing young talents. While not all graduates made it to the first team, many have enjoyed successful careers in the Italian top flight.

Like many clubs, Juventus operates several satellite clubs and football schools outside of the country including the United States, Canada, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Switzerland and numerous camps in its local region to expand talent scouting.

It appears to be working. Juventus are four points clear of Roma with two games remaining and will wrap up their sixth consecutive Serie A title if they beat Crotone at home next Sunday. Before then, they face Lazio in today's Coppa Italia final and could win the treble with the Champions League final against Real Madrid to come on June 3.

Overall, they have won 61 official titles on the national and international stage, more than any other Italian club but it's not all been plain sailing. The club endured a turbulent time after being demoted to Serie B in 2006 for their part in a match-fixing scandal but showed characteristic resilience to rise again to become the most dominant team in Italy.

The defensive style of Italian football is a lot different to that found in England's frantic Premier League. Arsenal's style, however, involves keeping a lot of the ball and having large chunks of possession, endorsed by veteran coach Arsene Wenger.

Juventus boss Max Allegri, ironically regularly tipped to replace Wenger at Arsenal, is famously quoted as saying: 'you get no points for style'.

Juventus will do what it takes to win. As their motto goes: 'Winning isn't important, it's the only thing that counts'.

No team has scored more than a single goal against the side, colloquially known as Juve and by the nickname 'The Old Lady', in a Champions League game this season.

John said: "Defending is key - control of the football and tempo of the game."

It should be an enlightening experience for former Watford Academy player John and Andy, plus the schoolboys and girls under their wing. The duo and the two new Italian coaches will be joined by current ASSB team members Jordan Stephens, Caitlyn Beavors and Michael Butler in ensuring the J style of coaching is adopted when the new term starts in September.

Abdul is confident the change will be smooth, adding: "The coaches will provide competitive youth soccer players with a positive encouraging club environment, focusing on friendship, respect, fair play, personal integrity and, above all, hard work.

"The goal will be to improve every player within the technical and tactical aspects of football training in both the mental and physical aspects of the game by following our values: fun, honesty, fair play, respect for others and teamwork."

Goalkeeper Luke Williamson, 14, from Saar, has been a pupil of the soccer school since the start. His mum, GulfWeekly columnist Ellissa, said: "My son's up for the challenge and maybe he'll get a bit more cover from the defenders next season!

"He's looking forward to it, although both he and his dad, Martin, are devoted Arsenal fans, so they're sad to see the Gunners depart but, hopefully, we'll all leave on a high with an Arsenal victory against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final -- then we can start cheering on Juventus!"

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:May 17, 2017
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