After a successful pilot program last academic year, Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Authority (ECA) and Manchester City Football Schools UAE have extended their partnership to kick-off the ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ program, now targeting up to 3,000 primary school students, ages 4-8 years across 40 schools in Abu Dhabi; a 260% increase compared to the pilot. An exciting competition has been announced, giving two children and their parents a chance to score a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, UK and celebrate in the stands during one of Manchester City's key games this season.
The ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ program is an integral part of ECA’s World Early Childhood Development (WED) Movement, a platform launched in 2021 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority. The WED Movement focuses on parents, children, partners, policymakers, civil societies, research entities, social investment funds and innovation centers, in addition to the private sector through strategic interventions and tailored programs that promote and develop the early childhood sector locally and globally. As part of this, the ‘Healthy Lifestyles’ program highlights the importance of play and its pivotal role in the cognitive, physical and behavioral development of young children. The program is built on the philosophy and vision of the Manchester City FC Academy training program, and in line with the values and culture of the local community.
The series of interactive workshops, which will be run throughout this academic year, focuses on educating children on the importance of leading a healthy and active lifestyle, while encouraging them to build healthy habits, such as taking part in football and sports.
This year’s program launched at The Pearl Academy in Abu Dhabi where 15 boys and 11 girls between the ages of 7-8 were put through their paces. Led by specially-trained Manchester City Football Schools coaches, the interactive workshops consist of two lessons – one theory and one practical – that teach children the importance of being active, eating well and leading a healthy lifestyle, all key priorities of the WED Movement.
The launch workshop concluded with a bang, revealing the inaugural Healthy Hero of the Year competition. New this year, the exciting contest will see the partner schools taking part in the program nominate two ‘Healthy Heroes’, one boy and one girl, who have gone above and beyond to lead and champion a healthier lifestyle throughout the school year, both personally and as a role model to their peers. Nominations will be submitted in May 2023, with two winners selected at random from the nominations on World Play Day, May 28th, 2023. The competition will give winners a money-can’t-buy-experience consisting of flights, accommodation, match tickets to a 2023/24 English Premier League home game and a behind the scenes tour of the iconic Etihad Stadium.
Manal Taher, Head of the Strategic Partnerships Department at the Authority, said: “After last year’s successful pilot, we are excited to see this partnership roll-out on a grander scale for the new academic year. This is something both the schools and children were hungry for and we are pleased to be able to deliver the best results for all participating children. We believe every young child should be healthy, confident, curious, able to learn and develop strong values in a safe and supportive family environment in Abu Dhabi and this program is a great way to spread that play-centric mandate and encourage our young children and their families to adopt Healthy lifestyles that promote their growth and development.
Simon Hewitt, Senior Manager, Football Operations MENA – Football Education, City Football Services said: “This year, we are expanding the reach of our Healthy Lifestyles Program designed for younger, primary school kids. It is never too early to talk about the benefits of sport, nutrition and healthy choices, and we are delighted to conduct these interactive sessions face-to-face, and in-classroom again.
Our partnership with ECA and its WED movement, coupled with the popularity of football, allows us to not only motivate the young students we are teaching, but hopefully we can help them inspire their wider community of siblings, parents and caregivers, as well.”
Joey Marcroft Head of PE, The Pearl Academy said: “The kids have greatly benefited from the in-person workshop. After a long, hot summer and almost two years of online learning, they loved letting off steam and learning life lessons and football skills from such renowned coaches, and ultimately enjoying having some good old-fashioned fun together. The launch of the Healthy Hero competition went down really well too and I believe it will go a long way in encouraging children to participate in more healthy living activity and lead by example to their classmates. I am excited for them.”
If you would like to register your interest in this year’s program, reach out via email on CFS.AbuDhabi@cityfootball.com.