This man put the spotlight on youth sport in the capital

Driven by his own love for the beautiful game, this teacher was determined to create a football community in Abu Dhabi

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“It was born out of a love for football,” reflects Seth Amoafo, founder of Pro Active Soccer Schools (PASS).

“I’m pretty lucky: it’s been a series of great opportunities and luck that’s led me to this point.”

Founded in 2012, PASS is one of the most popular football schools in the capital, responsible for teaching hundreds of young people in Abu Dhabi from age two to 14 years.

After moving to the UAE in 2009, Seth, who works full-time as an English teacher, was eager to continue with his passion of coaching after spells with world-famous youth squads including Chelsea FC and Manchester United.

Establishing a soccer school of his own was a natural progression, where he could be an active member of the football community in Abu Dhabi while helping to spread a love and understanding of the beautiful game in young people.

But it’s the ethos of the club, and the man at the helm, to develop young people beyond competency in football, that has earned PASS its reputation as one of the finest amateur clubs in the UAE.

“It’s not necessarily about the winning: we want to win, but it’s not winning at all costs,” Seth explains.

“We want to do the right thing. We coach the kids to play football the way we think it should be played, to go out and just do their best and act in a way that will benefit both the team and them as an individual.

“When they’re older and they aren’t playing football anymore, we want the values that we instil in them to stay with them.

“Respect, teamwork, communication, a strong work ethic – these are traits that can be a huge benefit to a young person and will be important throughout their lives.

“We aim to enable young people to achieve their potential, both as a sportsperson and as an individual.”

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With sessions now taking place seven days a week, PASS has grown from a small grassroots club to a footie hub in just five years, but with the competitive sport not quite established in the capital when he started out, Seth was faced with another challenge to help players develop their game.

“In the beginning, there wasn’t really much of a competitive football scene in Abu Dhabi,” Seth explained, “We only had one option and that was to travel to Dubai every weekend.

“I looked at how busy we were and how much of a burden that would be for our players and parents and I knew it was never going to happen. So we had to do something for ourselves.”

Not content with just running the club, Seth took it upon himself to form Abu Dhabi Youth League, bringing together clubs in the capital to play in a structured, competitive league.

Now in its second year, the number of teams involved has nearly doubled, as more and more players finally get to put their skills to the test and establish Abu Dhabi as a youth-friendly football city.

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“It was a challenge initially to form the league,” Seth admits.

“There had been a few leagues around, but I felt they weren’t the best organised and they could have been better structured.

“I’m one of these people that if I don’t like it, I won’t moan about it, I’ll just do it for myself.

“Nothing ever happens if all you do is talk; you’ve got to get up and actually do it to see whether or not it works.

“I was lucky enough to have the support of other teams in Abu Dhabi who wanted
the same thing, so I set it up and gave our kids the opportunity to play and enjoy competitive football.”

While the UAE has enjoyed a love affair with football over recent years, the culture of the game is not as deeply ingrained as other nations, like Seth’s native Ghana. But, he says, the driving force behind developing a passion for sport often starts in the home.

“Here involvement is driven by the parents, who encourage [children] to play. But once the kids are there, it’s no problem.

“I think that in the UK kids will go and play anytime, any where, in any space they can find. But here you have to drive everywhere; there’s not a huge number of parks where you can go and just kick a ball around, and it’s very hot – all these factors make
it difficult.

“So parental support is essential to encourage children to participate in sport and that’s the only difference here really compared to other countries.”

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It’s a world apart from where Seth’s hunger for the game grew, playing in the streets of Ghana.

“I remember starting playing football, barefoot, at a young age,” he explains with a smile on his face.

“We made a ball out of socks and plastic bags with newspaper stuffed in, that’s how we played.

“It’s was just what we did, we wanted to play so we just made it happen.

“I’ve been back a few times, and I look at the pitch I used to play on and I can’t believe we used to play there without shoes on our feet, but I would never change it, that made us what we are.”

What’s more, Seth’s determination and passion led to him coming third in the Best Coach category at the recent UAE Teen Sports and Fitness Awards, and PASS being nominated as one of the best UAE academies.

“It’s great but I couldn’t do anything without the support of my amazing wife and kids, staff at PASS and Abu Dhabi Sports Council,” Seth adds humbly.

“I’ve been blessed to be given such a strong support network to help me achieve my goals.

“You’ve got to do the best you can. If the kids miss out because we were too lazy or we don’t put the effort in, that’s such a loss.

“Kids want to play football and we need to find a way to make it happen for them.

“You’ve always got time to do something if you really want to do it. You’ve got to
be driven.

“I’ve always believed that if you do the right thing, good things will happen for you and that’s how I live my life.”

WORDS Colin Armstrong
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