Doha, Qatar,11 April 2017. As part of its comprehensive strategy to develop young sporting talents, Aspire Academy endeavors to embed the morals of sportsmanship and fair play within its student athletes. To do so, the Academy adopts a training philosophy tailored to the capabilities, talents, and goals of Qatar as a footballing nation, following a strategy that not only ensures the full development of athletes physically, but also nurtures their character and prepares them to represent their nation on the international stage.
Young footballers set new standards of fair play and sportsmanship
A prime example of this occurred when, during a competitive and closely-fought game between Qatar and Palestine in the recent Jeem Cup, a Palestinian player hit the ground hard after receiving an accidental elbow to the head. Qatar’s young sportsmen tried to return the ball to the Palestinian goalkeeper to resume the game but the goalie failed to catch the ball and the referee declared it a goal, making the score Qatar 1 Palestine 0.
Rather than allow his team to capitalise on this advantage, Qatar and Aspire Academy coach Fouad Elfdil instructed his team to let their opponents score, levelling the game at 1 – 1 in a genuine act of fair play rarely seen on the field.
Despite Qatar eventually losing the game 2-1, this unforgettable gesture has come to define the Academy’s approach to sports development and was captured on video and shared hundreds of times on social media, going viral in North Africa, Germany and other countries around the world.
International media has also picked-up on the gesture, shining a light on the young team of Qatari footballers who showed such sportsmanship during the highly-prized Jeem Cup, which features teams of 12-year-old students from 20 countries.
Fair play and sportsmanship an integral part of the Academy’s student athletes
Qatar’s young players did not hesitate when responding to the coach’s call to action, letting their rivals score without even a murmur of discontent, according to international media. Commentators and social media users have also said the players’ actions demonstrated their discipline and that fair play is deeply rooted in their young personalities.
Fouad Elfdil: “It was like a mini World Cup for our young players”
Coach Fouad Elfdil described the Jeem Cup as one of his team’s most transformational experiences, given it was the first time many players had worn Qatar’s national team shirt in a competition. He said of the team’s performance: “I am very proud that our players behaved in this way and set an example for all the other players to follow. We were competing against other countries and wanted to qualify for quarterfinals but the way we approached this was as if we were already playing in a World Cup.”
The Academy’s coach, who has been training young footballers in Qatar since 2013, highlighted that the team’s sportsmanship was not limited to that example alone, however, asserting that Aspire Academy’s approach ensures the “comprehensive development of all the players”.
He added: “When it comes to fair play, sportsmanship, and the key values we have at Aspire Academy, it’s not only about developing the skills of our players. The main thing we focus on is developing student athletes into good citizens. As a coach, you must try to discover the best way for a player to learn. But before you can do this, you must know the player better. You really need to dig deep into their personality before you can develop skills and turn them into a good footballer. When you are training adults, your approach is more about performance, but at youth levels, it’s all about developing the skills and personalities.”
The football programme at Aspire Academy is recognized as one of the strongest in the world in terms of both the detection and selection of promising talent and training and evaluation of players. Referencing this, Coach Fouad Elfdil concluded: “Qatar is being used as an example in South America, the USA and South Africa and China. I was in Holland visiting the Dutch Football Federation recently and they showed me a movie of our young footballers, saying they will use this for their courses. It’s amazing that Qatar’s youth team is being used an example of fair play all over the world.”
Aspire Academy has “Football Skills Development Centers” (FSDC) throughout Doha to identify talented young boys between 6 and 11 years of age. The nurturing of these players starts with boys from the age of 8 joining “Aspire Feeder Groups” to prepare them to join the Academy aged 12. They then enter the first of six generational football squads, beginning in the academic grade 7 and finishing at grade 12 by graduating high school and moving into senior football.
You can see the video of the match between Qatar and Palestine national team on Aspire Academy’s facebook page: http://bit.ly/AAFairPlayvPalestine
About Aspire Academy:
Since opening its doors in 2004, Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence has become one of the foremost national sports academies in the world. Working as part of the Aspire Zone Foundation - an international sport destination – Aspire Academy is at the heart of a sporting revolution currently taking place in Qatar and around the region. The Academy is conceiving, promoting and implementing game-changing excellence in sports training and elite athlete development that is enabling an entire generation of talented, disciplined and committed individuals, both Qataris and internationals to pursue their sports dreams. Together with the other members of the Aspire Zone Foundation (Aspire Logistics and ASPETAR Qatar Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital), the Aspire Academy is developing sports champions, promoting healthy lifestyles and galvanizing the sports economy of today, and the future.