Training in Salford
Sophia Taha

Member Article

Salford football academy achieves international goals thanks to UKTI

A sports centre in Salford is home to more international soccer players than a premiere league team thanks to Manchester International Football Academy (MIFA).

MIFA, which opened two years ago, aims to help players from all over the world who want to play football in the UK – and also provides a study programme to help with their education.

In the past 24 months over 100 players aged between 16 and 24 have been through the academy – with some going on to take up professional contracts as far away as Australia.

Six ex-students have signed professional contracts, six have played at international level for small countries, and one has gone on to play in the premier league for Leicester City.

Now MIFA have enlisted the help of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to help them achieve their goals and take a more structured approach to marketing overseas.

Work experience is organised for the students, mainly at football clubs including Manchester City, Blackpool, Oldham and Rochdale, though some take on other jobs too.

The international profile of the club sees local lads from Salford and Stockport playing alongside athletes from Bermuda, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, USA, Netherlands, Nigeria, Syria, India, Africa, Bahrain, Italy, Portugal, Argentina and Guadeloupe.

The overseas players are housed with local families and the team bond during the four hours daily training.

To date most students have been recruited online, but since working with UKTI, MIFA is formulating a more structured export strategy.

Ross Johnson, Director of MIFA, used to run his own language school, and set up the academy to bring British soccer skills to the world and to make it affordable for players from all backgrounds to come to the UK.

Ross Johnson said: “We are very excited about our potential to recruit more overseas players and are gradually putting more resources into that, working with Karen from UKTI.

“We completed the Passport to Export programme which was very useful in terms of looking at where we are now and where we want to be, and on planning a route to get there.

“One of our target markets is the Middle East where there is a real growth in interest in British football.

“England is one of the best places to play football, and the ethos of our club is to provide excellent coaching as well as a sound education.

“Our players are very motivated.

“We support them well, and the education programme we run has a 95% pass rate with our students, as opposed to a 35% national average.

“It is important to understand what is important to overseas players in order to achieve international success and I think we do that well.

“Attending Soccerex with UKTI’s help has been a big turning point for us.

“We have since had the Minister of Sport for South Africa visit our academy to speak to the players and find out more about our programme.

“We are very proud of what we have achieved here and are excited about the future.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Sophia Taha .

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