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16 January 2018 11:27 am

Aspire Zone Foundation celebrates a decade of sports excellence

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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.”  


  • 2003: The foundations are laid for the Sports City Project, including building a sports academy and numerous outstanding sports venues that are capable of hosting international events and competitions.
  • 2004: Aspire Academy opens its doors, having recruited the first intake of 90 young student-athletes following a nationwide search involving more than 8,000 children across Qatar.
  • 2004: The Father Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, officially opens Aspire Academy. The opening ceremony is also attended by His Highness the Emir of Qatar – and the Heir Apparent at that time – His Excellency Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, and His Excellency Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani. Several sporting legends, including Said Aouita, Nadia Comãneci, Hicham El Guerrouj, Diego Maradona, Ed Moses, Pelé and Mark Spitz were also present at the grand opening event.
  • 2006: Aspire Zone makes its mark on the international stage, hosting 200 events during the 2006 Asian Games.
  • 2006: Aspire Active launches and quickly establishes itself as one of Qatar’s most popular community health and fitness programmes.
  • 2007: Aspetar opens as the first specialised sports medicine hospital in the Gulf region.
  • 2007: The Aspire Football Dreams programme launches. Scouts travel to seven countries in Africa to screen nearly 430,000 boys by organising 26,000 football games on 700 pitches during the selection process.
  • 2007: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities (IAKS) award Aspire Dome with a silver medal and Khalifa International Stadium with a bronze medal at the high profile IOC/IAKS Distinction awards ceremony. The IOC/IAKS Award is the world’s only international architecture prize for sports and leisure venues.
  • 2008: Aspire Zone Foundation is established by Emiri decree to comprise three corporate entities: Aspire Academy, Aspetar and Aspire Logistics.
  • 2008: Argentinian striker Lionel Messi becomes an Aspire Ambassador.
  • 2008: The first intake of student-athletes graduate from Aspire Academy.
  • 2008: The Torch-Doha hotel wins awards for Most Outstanding and Innovative Exterior Lighting Design in the Middle East and Second Best Lighting in Public Venues.
  • 2009: Aspetar is officially accredited by the FIFA Medical and Research Centre (F-MARC) as a FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence.
  • 2010: Aspire Dome hosts the 13th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Indoor World Championships.
  • 2010: Thousands of business professionals and sports stars attend the inaugural ASPIRE4SPORT Congress and Exhibition.
  • 2010: The International Organization for Standardization awards Aspire Logistics three certificates: ISO 9001 for Quality Management System: 2008; ISO 14001 for Environmental Management System: 2004; and OHSAS 18001 for Occupational Health and Safety Management System: 2007.
  • 2011: Khalifa International Stadium hosts the opening ceremony, as well as the opening match and the closing ceremony of the 2011 Asian Cup.
  • 2011: Aspire Zone once again demonstrates its versatility as it hosts several events during the Arab Games 2011.
  • 2011: Aspetar and Aspire Academy are awarded the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Certification by Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) for a highly effective and leading food safety management system.
  • 2011: Aspire Zone Foundation presents the inaugural Doha GOALS (Gathering Of All Leaders in Sport) pre-forum at The Torch Doha hotel. One of the leading community initiatives of its kind, the event is launched under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
  • 2011: Aspire Zone Foundation organises the first annual Aquathon series. The event consists of a 500 metre swim and a 5 kilometre run around Aspire Park, and features a variety of categories for junior and adult participants.
  • 2011: Aspire Academy hosts the 2011 Qatar Fencing Grand Prix. Male and female competitors from around the world converge at Aspire Zone to take part.
  • 2011: Aspire Zone Foundation is voted the World’s Leading Sports Tourism Development Project for 2011 at the World Travel Awards.
  • 2012: AZF receives the Leading Sports Tourism Development award for the year 2011 at World Travel Awards 2012.
  • 2012: Aspire Zone Foundation is awarded the Best Meetings and Conference Centre in the Middle East for 2012 by Business Destinations Magazine.
  • 2012: Aspire Zone Foundation launches step into health – a life-long, self-managed programme designed to encourage members of the community to adopt healthy active lifestyles.
  • 2012: The Torch Doha hotel hosts the region’s first ever staircase run. Participants race up 1,304 stairs to the 51st floor to compete for the highly coveted first place prize.
  • 2012: Alain Robert, nicknamed the French “Spiderman”, climbs The Torch Doha hotel without the use of a safety rope and harness in a record time of 1 hour 33 minutes and 47 seconds. Robert is awarded the record for the fastest ascent of the hotel by the Guinness World Records.
  • 2012: Aspire Zone Foundation celebrates the inaugural National Sport Day, an occasion declared by the State of Qatar as a public holiday on the second Tuesday in February every year. The event encourages all the community to celebrate and engage in sport.
  • 2012: The first Doha Slam Dunk tournament is organised by Aspire Logistics, bringing together Qatar’s best street basketball players to showcase their skills.
  • 2012: Cirque du Soleil’s longest running touring show Saltimbanco is held at Aspire Zone.
  • 2012: Hamad Aquatic Centre hosts the second round of the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) Swimming World Cup in the short course (25m).
  • 2012: Aspire Zone Foundation organises the Al Kass International U-17 Cup in collaboration with the Al Kass Sports Channel and Qatar Football Association. Twelve teams from around the globe compete in the tournament, with Paris Saint-Germain emerging victorious.
  • 2013: Aspire Academy organises the 2013 International U-18 Football Tournament.
  • 2013: Aspetar holds the groundbreaking Altitude Training and Team Sports Conference.
  • 2013: The 14th GCC Athletic Championships take place at Khalifa International Stadium.
  • 2013: Aspetar is chosen by the Executive Committee of the GCC Council of Health Ministers as a Reference Collaborator Centre in recognition of the hospital’s contributions to scientific research as well as technical training.
  • 2014: The Balanty Football Championships launch at Aspire Zone.
  • 2014: Aspire Zone Foundation launches the Fayez programme for corporate and career development.
  • 2014: Aspire Academy organises the first Global Summit on Youth Football Performance & Science in Paris.
  • 2014: Aspire Zone Foundation is a partner in the winning bid submitted by the Qatar Olympic Committee to host the World Athletics Championship in 2019.
  • 2014: Aspetar partners with Paris Saint-Germain partner for three seasons
  • 2014: Aspire Academy is selected to host the 2018 Gymnasium World Championships.
  • 2014: Aspetar Laboratory receives official accreditation from the College of American Pathologists.
  • 2014: Aspetar launches the Namat programme website, winner of the GCC’s best health website in 2014.
  • 2015: Aspetar receives the International Handball Federation (IHF) recognition.
  • 2015: Aspetar is recognised as a Reference Collaborator by the Office of Health Ministers Council for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
  • 2015: Aspire Zone Foundation hosts the 2015 World Championship Staircase Run.
  • 2015: Aspetar introduces for the first time in the Middle East, a first aid dental kit.
  • 2015: Aspetar receives accreditation from the International Olympic Committee Research Centre for Prevention of Injury and Protection of Athlete Health.
  • 2015: The Torch Doha hotel is awarded a certificate of excellence by Trip Advisor.
  • 2015: The 2015 GCC Swimming Championships take place at Hamad Aquatic Centre.
  • 2015: Khalifa International Stadium is awarded a contract for state-of-the-art LED pitch lighting.
  • 2015: Aspire Logistics passes the quality management standards audit (ISO 9001) and the environmental management standards audit (ISO 14001) issued by the International Organization for Standardizations, and the occupational health and safety standards audit (OHSAS 18001).
  • 2015: AZF launches the Life in Aspire smart-phone application.
  • 2015: Aspetar is awarded Platinum Level accreditation by Accreditation Canada International (ACI).
  • 2015: Aspetar receives International Handball Federation (IHF) recognition
  • 2016: AZF opens Aspetar’s west expansion which provides a number of distinguished services and encompasses centres such as the surgical and anatomical training centre, a rehabilitation centre, Exercise is Medicine clinics and an integrated research department.
  • 2016: Aspetar organises first GCC-wide sports medicine conference
  • 2016: Aspire Academy receives Council of International Schools (CIS) Accreditation.
  • 2016: Aspetar signs medical partnership agreement with Tottenham Hotspur giving the club priority access to the hospital’s advanced sports medicine services and facilities
  • 2016: Mutaz Barshim, Aspire Academy graduate, wins the first silver Olympic medal in Qatar’s history.
  • 2016: Aspetar organizes first GCC Sports Medicine Conference
  • 2016: Tottenham Hotspur signs Medical Partnership Agreement with Aspetar
  • 2016: QOC, Aspire launches ˜Be An Athlete” initiative
  • 2017: Aspire Zone Foundation sets new world record in returfing Khalifa International in the space of just 13 and a half hours
  • 2017: HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani cuts the ribbon to inaugurate the renovated Khalifa International Stadium declaring it ready to host the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup
  • 2017: AZF presents innovative application to support Samla Race
  • 2017: Aspetar accelerates athletes’ recovery time with innovative hamstring protocol
  • 2017: Aspetar upgrades altitude acclimatisation facility to create an artificial environment equivalent to 5500m above sea level
  • 2017: AZF has announced the completion of its wastewater treatment station becoming one of the first in the country to use innovative reverse osmosis
  • 2017: AZF named best Arab sports organization
  • 2017: AZF teams up with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and Qatar University scientists to develop innovative cooled helmets to keep workers cool in summer month
  • 2017: Aspetar’s Sports Surgery Training Centre (SSTC) was recognised as a teaching medical centre by the International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (ISAKOS)
  • 2017: Aspetar was also awarded the World Health Organisation Patient Safety Friendly Hospital (PSFH) Accreditation
  • 2017: Aspire Academy U-17 team wins 2nd place at Al Kass International Cup
  • 2017: Aspire Academy graduate Mutaz Essa Barshim won a gold medal in the high-jump at the 2017 IAAF World Championship after clearing 2.43-metres and achieving the second highest jump of all time.
  • 2017: Aspire Academy graduate Abdullah al-Tamimi reached the second round of the World Squash Championships in Manchester

All images courtesy of by Aspire Zone Foundation