Qatar’s status as a world-leading sports hub grows more assured each day. In a short space of time, the country has emerged as a sporting capital of the Middle East and Asia, with Aspire Zone Foundation sits at the heart of this development.
This month AZF marks a decade of sports excellence since being established in 2008. During that time it has followed a clear and consistent strategy to contribute to the vibrant and growing sports economy of Qatar, whilst supporting the human and economic pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030.
AZF – a driving force for Qatar’s sporting development
To mark the occasion of its tenth anniversary, AZF's CEO Mr. Mohammad Khalifa Al-Suwaidi said:
“This month we mark ten years of the decision by our country’s visionary leadership to establish AZF and direct investment and resources towards sporting development and focus on the steady expansion of sports-related industries in Qatar.”
“In the past few years, the sports scene in Qatar has developed steadily with Aspire Zone Foundation sitting at the heart of this remarkable progress. Now, AZF represents one of the world’s leading destinations and is an enormous source of national pride for the country’s citizens and residents.”
“If you draw a simple comparison between Qatar and the region before and after the establishment of AZF as a fully-integrated sports city, you can clearly identify the impact that the organisation has had, including delivering high-profile international sporting events. We have made enormous progress in developing the country’s sports infrastructure and facilities and cultivating our talented sports men and women including star athletes and Olympic champions,” Al-Suwaidi concluded.
The country’s emergence as a destination of choice for international sporting events began in earnest in 2006 when Qatar hosted the Asian Games, the second-largest multi-sport event in the world. Since then, the country has hosted large numbers of major international events averaging nearly 80 events per year.
In January 2008, Aspire Zone Foundation (AZF) was established by Emiri decree in order to develop a world-class sporting environment, enhance sports performance and contribute to producing elite local athletes. By providing a comprehensive academic, athletic and mental education AZF equips such athletes to compete in various local and global competitions. In addition, AZF’s goals include the promotion of active and healthy lifestyles among local community members, and encouraging the growth and development of the sports economy in Qatar.
Since then, AZF has emerged as the umbrella organisation for a world-leading sports academy, logistics business and renowned orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital. Bringing together this global expertise means AZF is uniquely placed to catalyse the country’s sports industry in pursuit of its ambitious vision to be ‘the Reference’ in sports excellence worldwide by 2020. It does so whilst operating as one integrated institution that adheres to a unique working model – the ‘Aspire way.’
During the past decade, AZF has continued to make significant progress towards its vision, further cementing its reputation as a leading sports hub that attracts decision-makers, community members and sporting icons from around the world. It has become an essential component in athletes’ journeys to excellence.
Every year, AZF delivers world-class events. Hugely varied and wide ranging, these include everything from community sports activities to major sports medicine, science and education conferences as well as cultural and entertainment shows and events.
Crucially AZF is playing a central role in arguably the greatest sporting spectacle of them all – the FIFA World Cup. AZF’s involvement in supporting the tournament will create an incredible sporting and social legacy for the country which includes building FIFA World Cup Qatar™ host venues stadiums like Khalifa International Stadium and Al-Khor Stadium. It is a legacy from which all members of the community stand to benefit, with access to world-class sporting facilities designed to support active and healthy lifestyles.
Research and Development at the core of AZF daily activities
AZF believes that research is the essential foundation of outstanding player performance and athlete care, and works to integrate that research into daily clinical practice, in the hospital and on the playing field.
To this end, Aspetar is continually involved in ground-breaking research endeavors. A highly trained health and medical research team utilise state-of-the-art equipment and techniques to collect data that can be used to optimise athlete performance and recovery with a focus on the epidemiology of footballing injuries and their management. Their areas of focus include the treatment of groin pain, sports cardiology, applications of platelet rich plasma, athlete screening, the epidemiology of medical conditions, sporting activity during Ramadan, environmental physiology and healthy lifestyle advice.
The hospital’s research findings are published in international peer-reviewed publications. The team frequently participates in forums and conferences organised by the world’s leading sports medicine groups and institutions.
In Aspire Academy, the Sports Science Department manages an Applied Sport Science Research Programme designed to increase capacity for applied research across Aspire’s diverse disciplines. In addition to in-house research, the programme provides extensive scope for collaboration with external partners.
In addition to their core servicing roles, Sports Science staff have been actively involved in applied sport science research aimed at maximising the performance of Aspire Academy programmes and athletes. So far, they have produced more than 75 peer reviewed articles in scientific journals and made more than 58 presentations at international scientific conferences.
Aspire Logistics also manages a Centre of Excellence for natural sports turf research and development, and is working in very close partnership with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy to develop the turf that will cover the pitches in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ finals. AZF recently succeed in re-turfing the Khalifa International Stadium in world record time, covering 7,800 square metres in just 13 hours and 30 minutes.
AZF’s Information Technology department has also made a major contribution to the development of the sports sector in Qatar in partnership with local and international organisations. For example, AZF has teamed up with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and Qatar University scientists to develop innovative helmets designed to keep workers cool in summer months.
Together with the Qatar Football Association and QNB Stars League, Aspire Academy launched the Qatar Football Analytics Dashboard – a set of tools that help analyse and support the sporting performance of players in Qatar. The initiative makes the data available to clubs, coaches and the players themselves. Data collected includes distances covered on the field and players’ ranking in relation to key aspects of their game (e.g. passing) compared with teammates as well as players from other clubs, along with video analysis.
AZF also unveiled for the first time a new application that automatically tracked all the runners who took part in Samla Race – a Desert Extreme Trek. The app helped specify the runners’ exact position, speed, heart rate and other vital signs. The app also provided the functionality to automatically dispatch an ambulance and medical support in the event that any runner’s vitals were detected to have reached dangerous levels.
World-class facilities made AZF a unique destination for international teams
Aspire Zone is home to some of the finest sporting facilities and services in the world. Aspire Dome is the world’s largest indoor, multipurpose sports stadium with a seating capacity of 15,500 spread across 13 sports halls. Other facilities include the 4,500-seat Hamad Aquatic Centre and the 2,500-person capacity Ladies Sports Hall, and two hotels: the Torch Doha Hotel and the Mövenpick Hotel Al Aziziyah Doha. Together, these make Aspire Zone a leading sports hub in Qatar and the preferred training destination for elite local, regional and international athletes.
Quotes about Aspire Zone Foundation and its MOs from prominent figures
Commenting on the Qatar Olympic Committee’s partnership with Aspire Academy through a unique Athlete Development Pathway (ADP) model, HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani said:
“Producing world-class Qatari sporting champions is a fundamental part of Qatar’s vision for sport. While Qatar has made considerable progress on the sporting field in recent years, highlighted by our three silver medals in the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, we are keen to build on this success and continue to increase the performance of our athletes across a wider range of sports.
The ADP is a robust framework that will enable Qatar to be fully unified in our approach to identifying, developing and nurturing talented athletes at every stage of their career, from early childhood to post-retirement, enabling them to reach their full potential. It is the first of its kind in the MENA region and is another example of how Qatar is always striving to break new ground in the development of sport at every level. We are very excited to see the outcome and we look forward to a bright future for sporting excellence in Qatar.”
The decorated American track and field athlete Allyson Felix said:
“I took a detailed tour around Aspire Zone and its member organisations Aspire Academy and Aspetar. I was really impressed by the facilities. They are some of the best I’ve seen globally. What’s great about Aspire and its training programmes and services is that they are all in one place, offering easy access to a comprehensive training programme for visiting athletes. That is why I have chosen it as my training destination.”
Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets said:
“As a player, I’d personally enjoy using these facilities every day. Academies like Aspire provide a good foundation for young players to make it into professional leagues.”
Brazilian striker Giovane Élber said:
“I think you have the best sports academy in the world. It looks like a dream from what I’ve seen during my visit. This academy is your ticket to the top and this opportunity is not always available for everyone. We would have loved to have something like this in Brazil when I was growing up.”
Brazilian professional footballer Neymar said:
“Some of the facilities I saw at Aspire could be the envy of any other country. I hope that other countries also develop such facilities for the benefit of young sportsmen.”
FC Bayern Munich’s Manager Jupp Heynckes said:
“Our players have access to world-class facilities in Aspire Zone. The weather conditions in Qatar at this time of year are ideal. The team will return to Germany energized and motivated. Qatar’s decision that the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ would be played during the winter was a smart move.”
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said:
"It (Aspire Academy) is really a benchmark for the world of sports. What is happening here is not only the training of athletes but also their education, and its scientific achievements are remarkable."
Brazilian Minister of Sport Leonardo Picciani said:
“It is a fantastic experience to visit Aspire Academy’s superb facilities. The philosophy here – which focuses on preparing kids for life and equipping them with sports skills and a good education – is superb. This is one of the best sports academies I have ever seen in the world, and Qatar will be served well by the work and initiatives underway at Aspire.”
Tony Martin, Soccerex Chairman said:
“Aspire Zone has become a leading player in the international sports arena and should be proud of all that it has achieved. Young athletes in Qatar are very fortunate to be trained in these world-class facilities which you don’t often see in other parts of the world.”
Masami Ando, Managing Director of JETRO said:
“AZF is an ideal place to nurture young sporting talent due to its size and the comprehensive nature of its venues. It has all the facilities needed for training, education and medical treatment.”
Evangelos Grammenos, President of the Hellenic Football Federation said:
“It is quite evident that this country has a vision and well-thought-out plans for sports development. l firmly believe that it will reach its objectives in the years to come. Aspire Academy is really impressive and has embarked on a good sports development philosophy which is backed up by world-class facilities.”
Former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel said:
“I decided to come to Qatar after learning that Aspetar has very good rehab centers, and physiotherapists who have a lot of expertise in the field and know what they are doing. I spent 11 years with my former club Chelsea, and I have always had my treatments there before moving to China. I think Aspetar’s facilities, physiotherapists and doctors are similar to Chelsea’s. That is also why I enjoy my time here.”
Bournemouth Striker Callum Wilson said:
“My experience with Aspetar has been excellent and very productive so far. I’ve been here for two and a half weeks and I enjoyed every minute of it. The coaches working with me are on a mission to help me achieve my full potential and I already feel the difference.”
Umid Ahmadjonov, The President of Uzbekistan Football Federation said:
“It was a pleasure to visit such a great sporting academy. I must congratulate the people of Qatar for having a fabulous institution that promotes such amazing values and does so much for aspirational athletes. I am pretty sure that the country’s sporting future is in safe hands and that Qatar will have a highly competitive national football team in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup here in Doha, based on the vision of this great academy.”
All images courtesy of by Aspire Zone Foundation
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