Muscat: Small, bespectacled, somewhat shy and with a smile that can light up a stadium, 5th Grader Adil Aziz dreams of playing for FC Barcelona when he grows up. Adil is one of 1,000 Omani school children mentored by the Shell Development Oman and FC Barcelona Foundation FutbolNet Programme.
And, admirable though Adil's aspirations are, the goal of FutbolNet is not to create professional footballers for the future but something much more ambitious and socially relevant.
"The FutbolNet Programme seeks to promote human and social development, using sport as one of the main tools. Through this programme, boys and girls are taught the importance of mutual respect and understanding, but also gain self-confidence and a sense of responsibility. It aims to promote and strengthen their system of values through the teaching principles of sport, play and active and inclusive participation" said Chris Breeze, Shell's Chairman in Oman.
Thousand children, covering four different regions of Oman – Muscat, Al Batina, Al Sharqia and Al Dhakilyah – participated in Phase 1 of the FutbolNet Programme. A further 1,000 students, aged between 8 and 16, from five regions, including Al Dahira, are participating in Phase 2 of the programme.
Launched in January 2014, this phase has 60 trained coaches and boasts the first girls' venue in Muscat.
When over 100 FutbolNet participants assembled to facilitate the visiting FC Barcelona Legends at The
Sultan School in March, the success of the programme was evident.
A spokesperson of the FC Barcelona Foundation noted: "The FutbolNet participants were delighted by this event as they were able to meet and play with former FC Barcelona superstars and learn from their techniques and advice. During their trip to Oman, FCB veterans spent their free time visiting the ongoing FutbolNet project that the FCBF is executing in partnership with Shell"
In the words of Nasser Al Ryami, FutbolNet Oman Project Coordinator, "The positive results of the programme are apparent from the report of our Evaluation Team.
He said. "99.2 percent of parents are encouraged by the improvements in their children's conduct. 83.3 percent coaches perceive a positive behavioural improvement and a marked reduction in aggressive behaviour."
The girls' coach, Fifa trained Mashaeil Mohammed Al Harthi, said: "For me football is a confidence building tool for the girls. Playing in a team with their peers compels them to interact in ways they wouldn't learn in a classroom."
The recently initiated FutbolNet Programme reflects Shell's ongoing commitment to the development of the Omani youth and to the Omani communities it has proudly been a part of for many decades.
The success of the programme relies on the partnership and support of FC Barcelona Foundation, the Omani Ministries of Sports & Education and the Omani Football Association and all
"Football, to me, is life," says Barcelona legend and FutbolNet patron Miguel Angel Lozano. "I have discovered that all the challenges, setbacks and triumphs of life are reflected in the football field, and vice versa."
"The most important lessons in my life have all come from football and, if I had to choose again, I wouldn't trade it for the world. The involvement with FutbolNet is my modest contribution towards making youngsters better human beings through their experience of the beautiful game," he reasserted.
"By extending the passion for football to all aspects of life, the programme helps youngsters build social skills and learn the importance and value of working as part of a team."
Whether Adil Aziz ever becomes a FC Barcelona legend only time will tell, what we can be sure of is that he, and all the other participants, will grow up to be socially aware and responsible citizens, thanks to the Shell FutbolNet Programme.