- Special Pages
By Isabel Ovalle
Football is their passion, it grows on them from a very young age and they want to pursue it. Luckily, Qatar is ‘the place’ to be for football-crazy youngsters to develop their playing skills as the country gears up to host the World Cup in 2022.
To promote an already popular sport among people of all ages and nationalities here, the Khalifa International Stadium will host a friendly match between the Spanish national team, winner of the last world and European championships, and its Uruguayan counterpart, recent winner of the South American championship, today. It’s safe to say that the crème de la crème of football will be playing in Doha, starting at 9pm.
A large number of fans got the opportunity to see their idols in action at their training sessions yesterday. Uruguay trained at 5pm at Khalifa Stadium, followed by the Spanish team’s workout at the same venue.
The Uruguayan community in Doha, comprising approximately 25 people, came to watch the players go through their paces.
María, from Montevideo, has lived in Qatar on and off for two years, and began her latest stint here three months ago. She came to the stadium with her three daughters, all of whom were excited to see the national team for the first time outside Uruguay.
“Love for football has grown since I first came to Qatar, however, it is very low compared to Uruguay and other American and European countries,” María said.
The Ambassador of Uruguay, Jose Luis Remedi, a football fan, was also there to watch his compatriots train. “My favourite sport is motorcycling, but I think the current team is the best there has ever been. The sky-blue colour of the jersey awakens passions among Uruguayans,” he added.
“The national team is loved among our community in Doha because they get into people´s hearts, they always do their best,” he said.
For the ambassador, the Uruguayan community is like a family, and they often gather for events such as yesterday’s, which, he stated, “is an excellent opportunity for fans.”
Qatar’s efforts to promote football involve painstaking work, which began more than two decades ago with the gradual strengthening of the national league. The country is aiming to become a point of reference globally by implementing initiatives such as the Aspire Academy for budding footballers.
More than 6,000 children and youth have passed through the academy, where they get the chance to train under professionals from many countries, including Uruguay and Spain.
The Academy has world-class facilities, with a training centre measuring more than 290,000 square metres, consisting of more than eight football fields and a boarding school with over a hundred rooms that can accommodate over 250 athletes.
Approximately 200 fans gathered to watch the Spanish team train for an hour. Ivana, from Spain, came to the stadium with her husband and daughter. “As expats, we feel very happy to see the team in Doha. We never imagined we would be able to see them here. Actually, for us it’s the first time we are seeing them,” she added.
Young Manuel, 12, was especially excited because he is a big fan of Barcelona Fútbol Club, many of whose players are part of the Spanish side. “Pujol is my favourite, and tomorrow he will celebrate his 100th game with the Spanish team. I want to be like him,” he said.
Some Qatari football fans also came to the stadium yesterday. A 16-year-old, himself a football player, was very happy to see Spain, his favourite team, in Doha. “I’m sure they will win tomorrow,” he asserted.
The organisers don´t know if the 50,000-seat stadium will be full today, however, it’s clear that Spanish and Uruguayan fans will fill up as many seats as possible.