Sport360 launches the first-of-its-kind National School League (NSL), marking the beginning of a new chapter for cricket in the UAE.
With the backing of the Emirates Cricket Board and Dubai Sports Council, NSL to begin on October 17, will enable schools to play cricket in a unified league offering a platform for boys to be selected for the national team, as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle.
It’s been a year to remember so far for UAE cricket with the national team qualifying for the 2015 World Cup, before playing in the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in March.
The UAE held its first ICC tournament with the Under-19 World Cup in February before some of the world’s best players showcased their talents in front of packed stadiums for the first leg of the IPL in April. And with cricket the second most played sport in the UAE, Sport360 wants to create a legacy to continue this growing success by developing the game at grass-root levels nationally.
Sport360 CEO, Michael Chalhoub, explained, “We believe that sports need to be promoted and supported at every level, but passion for sports for many, if not all of us, starts at school, where having fun and competing amongst friends sets the stage for how we feel about a sport, a team and even a player. Some of us will make sports our profession and our lives but all of us will engage and participate in what we love in. This is the spirit behind NSL, we want to inspire children and support them in their passion; to guide them and help them lead healthier and more active lives from the beginning of their school years and the future. The UAE qualified for the 2014 World Twenty20, and next year’s World Cup, and for this success to continue, we need to take the initiative to make the best players shine, starting from grass-root level. Who knows, perhaps one day we will have our own cricket superstar.”
He added, “Sport360 is a sports focused company. While we have a leading position in the sports information business we also see it as our mission to help build a strong and vibrant sports community in the UAE. And NSL is one way to achieve that, a concept we plan to extend to other sports in the future.”
Running from October 17 until the final on February 14, 2015, a total of 124 matches will be played on Fridays and Saturdays at the ICC Academy, the 7he Sevens (Dubai), Sharjah International Stadium and the Abu Dhabi Cricket Stadium Nursery Ground – facilities which have already staged cricket previously. There will be two age-groups – under-13s (15 overs format) and under-15s (T20) with the schools placed in a group according to their geographical location – Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, Old Dubai, New Dubai and Sharjah and Northern Emirates.
Each team will be guaranteed five matches in the round-robin format. While the winner reaches the quarter-finals, the runner-up and third-placed team in each group will meet in a play-off to determine who claims the final qualifying berth. To add extra competitiveness, the structure is based on the successful IPL format with each school having its own franchise brand as well as branded kit equipment being supplied. Schools will also have the opportunity to practise at ICC Academy – which will host the finals.
Players and fans can stay up-to-date with the matches with live scoring as well as comprehensive tournament website with picture galleries, statistics, interviews and fixtures. And that is on top of the newspaper coverage which will have match reports, group standings and player profiles on the tournament so far.
East Springer, former under-19 South African cricketer, and now school sports coordinator at Sport360, said: “We want to give the children the opportunity to showcase their talent on the big stage and the NSL will only help strengthen cricket in the UAE.”
And Will Kitchen, ICC Academy manager praised NSL as a new step. He said, “It’s a really positive step forward for cricket in the UAE particularly with the senior team competing at next year’s World Cup; it gives us a fantastic platform at international level for making a case of having strong development programmes, and this will enable us to do that really successful. “Thanks to Sport360, a lot of children will get to play good cricket and hopefully enjoy playing the sport.”
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