Young footballers train during the Nike All Asia Football Camp at Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
Doha: Aspire Academy hosted some of Asia’s top young footballers in Doha last week as part of the Nike All Asia Football Camp in training sessions and talent showcases for representatives from some of Europe’s leading clubs.
The international training event was an elite academy programme that granted young Asian footballers the chance to train with renowned European coaches and demonstrate their skills to delegations from Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Inter Milan. It also granted them the opportunity to meet their peers from other countries.
Ivan Bravo, Director General of Aspire Academy, commented, “We at the Academy are very pleased to host these young Asian footballers. The importance of this training is not only the fact that coaches from renowned European leagues get to identify the future stars of football, but their visit will give them a closer look at the amazing sporting facilities available at Aspire Academy, giving them a feel of the love of sports in the Gulf region and specifically in Qatar.”
Brian McClair, Manchester United’s Academy Director and former club striker, who attended the sessions at Aspire Academy, said: “This event has been a unique opportunity for us to meet and observe some of the best young players that Asia has to offer. It has been a real privilege for me to witness first-hand some of the stars of the future here in Qatar.”
Adding that the training camp was a chance for the youths to gain access to Aspire’s elite facilities, McClair said, “It has also been a fantastic opportunity for these young players to train at Aspire’s world-class facilities, alongside top-class coaches.”
Meanwhile, comparing the Asian players’ fitness with their peers in Europe, coach Paolo Migliavacca from Inter Milan said, “The Nike Camp has been a great opportunity to examine Asian football, and although I have seen a lot of talent here, the physical fitness of these Asian players is average compared to those we see in Europe.”
However for, Bidyananda Singh who plays for India’s National Under-17 team, the trip to Aspire served to drive his ambition of one day playing professionally for a European club even more. “It has been an honour to play at Aspire because it is such an amazing facility,” he said. “My dream is to one day play professional football for a European club and this experience has made it somewhat palpable.”
With Asia attempting to establish itself as a hotbed of young footballing talent, the 60-strong group that attended the Nike camp represented some of the world’s finest teenage players from 11 countries across the region.
By the end of training camp the players who managed to impress the coaches the most played in an All Stars game. The fixture saw the best 24 players, from the group of 60, come up against each other in a closely-fought 11 v 11 match at Aspire Dome.
Representatives from Nike All Asia Football Camp expressed their appreciation of the facilities of Aspire Academy and hoped they will be back next year for their training camp.
However, the football training camp will not be the only experience the young players will take home with them. After having enjoyed a game of beach ‘temba’, a traditional Qatari version of football played in full local attire, the youths were treated to Qatar’s sights during a desert safari trip to the Inland Sea. Their trip drew to a close with a visit to Souq Waqif, marking the end of an enjoyable week.