Doha, 5 July 2017. FC Barcelona players; Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, visited Aspire Academy ahead of their scheduled panel discussion at the Mall of Qatar, which is organised by the Academy and Mall of Qatar.
Upon arrival at Aspire the trio was met and welcomed by a team of senior members from Aspire Academy, comprising of Mr. Ali Salem Afifa, Deputy Director General of Aspire Academy, Mr. Jassim Al Jaber, Aspire Academy’s School Principal, Professor Valter Di Salvo, Director of Football Performance & Science, Mr. Markus Egger, Director of Sport and Strategy, as well as Mr. Ali Sultan Fakhroo, Director of Corporate Services.
Professor Valter Di Salvo, Director of Football Performance & Science, took the players on a tour of Aspire Academy’s facilities including a sneak peek of Aspire Academy’s newest building still under construction but near completion.
Gerard Pique, praised Aspire Academy saying it is equipped with great facilities. When asked about his retirement plans from the national team, Pique said: “I have thought a lot about this decision, and will carry it through after 2018 Russia World Cup. I’ll be 31 next year, and I want to have a long career with my club FC Barcelona. To do that, sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and leaving the national team will give me more time to rest.”
Speaking about Aspire-owned Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa’s promotion to Spain’s Second Division, Pique added: “I think this will be a great experience for the team. It’s also good for Aspire Academy because then they can send their players there to prepare them for the Qatar World Cup 2022.” Asked if like his former team-mate, Xavi Hernandez, he would consider playing in Qatar someday, Pique said, “At present l would like to finish my playing career with Barcelona but in football you never know so l cannot rule out anything completely”
Meanwhile, Jordi Alba advised Aspire Academy’s student-athletes to soak up as much knowledge from their coaches as possible and to keep fighting to their level of football. Commenting on the development of sports in Qatar, Alba added: “The sports field in Qatar is growing steadily. Qatar has a lot of potential and people are expecting great things from it.”
Speaking about Aspire Academy, Sergio Busquets praised the spacious facilities and high-level of coaching, adding: “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. In order to succeed in football, players have to remain committed and motivated. International exposure provides this and benefits young players, as demonstrated by the growth of Aspire Academy graduate and Sporting Gijon forward, Akram Afif.”