Fizan Bin Niyas started playing football just about three years ago. A naturally-gifted forward, the Class VI student of St Thomas School at Anikkadu in Kottayam district, is now dreaming of making it big in the sport after having received a life-changing opportunity at the start of his football career.
Fizan was a member of the Abu Dhabi-based Al Ethihad Sports Academy's squad at the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup 2023, which was held over the weekend of February 18 and 19 at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Fizan played eight matches in the tournament, including those against the age-group sides of top clubs like Barcelona FC and Manchester City FC. His talent was on display for all to see during the tournament as he scored goals against Manchester City and Persija Jakarta.
How did it all start?
Fizan's elder brother Fahad was a member of the Kottayam district sub-junior football team. He used to accompany Fahad when the latter attended training sessions at the Legends Arts and Sports Club at Chamampathal near Manimala. After learning the nuances of the game, Fizan joined the Ayras Sports Hub at Myladi, which had entered into a partnership with the Al Ethihad Sports Academy.
Fizan, an ardent fan of Barcelona FC and Brazilian star Neymar, got the opportunity to play in the Manchester City Abu Dhabi Cup 2023 after the Al Ethihad Sports Academy decided to form a team comprising players from its training centres in various countries.
Apart from Fizan, four other young footballers from Kerala were also part of different age-group squads of the academy. Videos of the training sessions conducted by the Ayras Sports Hub were sent to the authorities of the Al Ethihad Sports Academy. After assessing the performance of each trainee, the academy conducted an online interview with the shortlisted players before finalising the squad.
Kerala Football Association joint secretary Achu Sankar, who supervises the Al Ethihad Sports Academy's activities in Kerala, arranged transport facilities for the players from Kerala to reach Abu Dhabi. The tournament, which returned to the UAE capital for the first time since 2019, included 128 teams from 13 countries.
"The tournament was a fantastic experience as we all got a chance to train under eminent coaches for three days ahead of the matches," said Fizan, who is the second child of Adv. P J Niyas and Shiji Niyas of Palakottal at Chamampathal.