Spanish soccer club Real Madrid hopes to boost its efforts to forge closer ties with oil-rich Gulf states by bringing some of its stars, including Iker Casillas, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite (Kaka) and Cristiano Ronaldo to the region. Real Madrid President Florentino Perez said he is “working very hard” to arrange a visit to the region by the club’s stars. Perez was speaking in Abu Dhabi after inaugurating the club’s latest sports academy in the emirate, which will enroll some 400 youngsters. The Real Madrid manager said he hoped the academy would one day produce a soccer star that would play in his club. “It is possible that one day a child from the UAE can play for Real Madrid. Why not?” Perez said, pointing to the club’s recent signing of German internationals Mesut Ozil and Sami Khadira. The academy’s curriculum like that of Manchester United’s school in the emirate includes nutritional advice, a key element in a part of the world that has one of the highest number of people suffering from diabetes and obesity. “The kids are usually surprised when we talk about nutrition and fitness, but it’s a really important part of the game," said Chris Rosimus, a fully qualified nutritionist and Manchester United coach. “The professional players learn about diet and training really early on in their careers and we want to use the Manchester United team as role models to motivate the children towards a healthier lifestyle. Our goal is for the students to apply the health advice to their everyday lives so that they can have an overall healthy lifestyle and excel at the sport,” Rosimus said. Real Madrid is the latest top European team to capitalize on mounting criticism that Middle Eastern nations have failed to nurture soccer talent at a young age resulting in their disappointing performance at last month’s Asian Cup in Qatar. Following in the footsteps of FC Inter Milan and FC Arsenal, who last month announced school openings in the Middle East and North Africa, Real Madrid earlier this month signed an agreement to establish Saudi Arabia’s first sports academy.
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