Rishworth School will offer boys and girls aged 13 to 16 the opportunity to experience a truly unique programme that combines high quality education and professional football coaching with the formation of the Rishworth International Football Academy (RIFA).
Delivered in partnership with the Street Work Soccer Academy, RIFA pairs the school’s 300 years of heritage in education with elite football coaching and world-class facilities, starting September 2022.
RIFA will develop young people’s sporting skills while offering a clear pathway into the professional football arena, thanks to its strong partnerships with professional football clubs based globally.
Rishworth School already boasts an enviable reputation in sporting excellence, having produced professional stars across sports including rugby, cricket, badminton and football, while 40 current pupils represent club level, regional and national teams in sports including hockey, netball, dressage, athletics, swimming and tennis.
The RIFA programme will be delivered to students by UEFA-licensed coaches who have served in senior coaching positions at elite clubs in England and around the world. This includes head of football development, Lee Lockley, who has worked as a coach for Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City.
The Academy’s director of football, Paz Shan, brings more than 30 years of experience as a player and football coach, most recently working in player recruitment at Manchester City.
Young players aged 13 to 16 from around the world will be eligible to apply to join the Academy, which will also see students receive a world-class education at Rishworth School.
Students may also opt to extend their spell with RIFA for a further two years, with the Academy offering University pathways.
The RIFA ‘total football’ philosophy will emphasise supporting the ‘whole person’ whilst playing attacking football with freedom and creativity.
The programme will also include site visits to elite training facilities across the country, complementing sessions held at the school, as well as visits to Premier League matches and participation in national tours and tournaments.
The RIFA site at Rishworth School will include a full-size 11-a-side grass pitch, indoor sports hall, weights room, cardio gym and swimming pool.
Director of Football Paz Shan said: “Football is so important to many young people, and this aspect is never lost, but RIFA will maintain a philosophy that supports the student’s wider development needs.
“At RIFA, we prioritise the importance of all our students having an appropriate balance of education, football and cultural experiences, while our ‘total football’ philosophy enables us to produce more skilful and ball-comfortable players, who are equipped both physically and mentally to play the game at the optimum level.
“Our dedicated staff will support them in gaining confidence and self-belief to give their maximum effort in achieving their dreams and aspirations whilst here in the UK.”
Abdulla Alkhater is a former Rishworth School student who went on to play professionally for Al Jazira FC and Emirates FC in United Arab Emirates.
He said: “My time at Rishworth School was truly amazing. I learned so much about British football and culture, and it enabled me to have a life changing experience that I would have been unable to get back in my home country.
“The football coaching programme was a vital part of my development as a professional footballer, while the teachers were a great support in me achieving my academic qualifications – they really treated me like I was part of the family.”
Head of Rishworth School Anthony Wilkins said: “Creativity and achievement flourishes throughout Rishworth School and we are immensely proud of our standing as one of the best schools in the region for sports, with academies and scholarships in rugby, cricket and badminton.
“The establishment of RIFA will see us build on that pedigree and enable us to offer even more opportunities to young people, locally, nationally and internationally, through a truly unique programme.
“The introduction of RIFA very much strengthens our focus on service, leadership and the building of character, which helps Rishworthians become well-rounded, productive and successful contributors to modern society.”