Aspire Academy in Doha, Qatar, last night held a closing ceremony in the Academy’s auditorium to celebrate the conclusion of the ninth edition of "ASPIRE Football Dreams" – the world's largest football scouting programme.
This latest edition of ASPIRE Football Dreams covered 16 countries across three continents – Asia, Africa and Latin America. During the final stages of this year-long programme, 36 talented players born in 2002 visited Aspire Academy from 10 January 2016 to 28 January 2016 to train with and play against each other. Players participating on the programme have come from countries including Thailand, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Vietnam, Paraguay, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Uganda and Guinea-Bissau.
This final stage of the recruitment process marked the conclusion of a year-long search for talent that involved more than 420,000 youngsters playing around 60,000 games organised on more than 1,200 pitches spread throughout the 16 countries. Registration to take part was free.
More than 4,000 volunteers worked closely with highly qualified professional coaches and scouts to identify the most promising youngsters in these groups to recruit them for the programme.
During this final stage, the 36 highest performing players were brought to Qatar to participate in a three-week-long trial and condensed training programme. This included friendly games against Aspire Academy football students as well as a visiting youth team from FC Barcelona. During their time at the Academy, they also met 54 young players from previous editions of ASPIRE Football Dreams, born in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001.
During the players’ visit to Qatar, Aspire Academy's football coaching staff worked hand-in-hand with the programme's scouts and country coordinators, headed by Programme Director Josep Colomer. They introduced the players to the latest coaching methods and techniques.
The closing ceremony was held on 27th January 2016, during which the 36 promising young talents were presented with certificates of achievement in front of an audience made up of Ambassadors and Chiefs of Mission from those countries involved in the project that have embassies or representative offices in Doha. They were joined by senior leaders from Aspire Zone Foundation and its Member Organisations.
Commenting on the ninth edition, Dr. Andreas Bleicher, consultant for international football affairs at Aspire Academy, said: “Everyone in football is aware of the significant footballing talent that exists in developing countries and also of the challenges that can prevent these players from reaching their full potential. Aspire offers a new window of hope and opportunity for those players who have the talent and dedication necessary to succeed at the highest levels of international football. To reach this objective, Aspire cooperates closely with various national football associations in those countries involved in the programme and supports the players in playing for their relevant national teams. In this way, the programme directly benefits the players’ home countries from a sporting point of view."
During their time in Doha, the players benefited from access to Aspire Academy’s sports science facilities. These include hi-tech equipment, physical tests, fitness tests, scanning and medical treatments. They were also able to take advantage of a programme of leisure time activities specially arranged for them by the Academy including matches in the AFC U23 Championship, currently underway in Doha and in which a number of graduates of Aspire Academy are playing.
The players stayed in the Academy's boarding school dormitory, which maintains the same standards as a top class hotel. A healthy and balanced diet was also provided to them by the Academy's catering staff, under the close supervision of a specialised team of dieticians.
During their stay in Doha, the boys also benefited from the advanced health services of Aspetar – the world’s leading specialised orthopaedic and sports medicine hospital.
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