London, 6 October 2017. Friday, the 6th of October, marked the first day of the ASPIRE4SPORT Congress & Exhibition in London, a two-day event held at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge, designed to shape the future of the sports industry, enhance the fan experience and spread best practice in athlete development.
In attendance was HE the Minister of Culture and Sports Salah bin Ghanem Al Ali, Qatar's Ambassador to the United Kingdom Yousef bin Ali Al Khater and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) Secretary General HE Hassan Al Thawadi as well as Chelsea F.C.’s Chairman, Bruce Buck.
The Aspire Academy welcomed some of the world’s leading tech companies, major European and Qatari sports industry professionals, as well as representatives from 80 of the world’s most prestigious football clubs – which form part of the “Aspire in the World Fellows” community – including Manchester United, Arsenal, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Juventus. This bespoke and unparalleled attendance made the event one of the largest and most influential gatherings of its kind anywhere in the world.
There were also sporting greats in attendance, including former Italian coach, Arrigo Sacchi, one of the most influential managers of all time, former Newcastle United coach, Kevin Keegan, as well as Aspire Academy graduate, and Qatar’s high jumping world champion Mutaz Barshim, the second highest jumper of all time. Former Netherland international footballer Ronald de Boer was also in attendance.
Speaking at the event, Arrigo Sacchi, who managed one of the greatest AC Milan teams of all time, said: “It’s a great event which has been really well organized. I think the event is really important as it will help people to evolve and to improve. Listening to others, comparing with others, it’s something that will make you better.”
One of the major themes from the first day was the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, with a focus on the progress being made both on and off the field by the Qatari national football team, and the development of the Qatar’s stadiums in the run up to the event.
In a speech delivered to delegates, Ivan Bravo, Director General of the Aspire Academy in Qatar, said: “Despite some people being skeptical about whether Qatar can compete in 2022, we think very differently. We have no doubt that the team in 2022 can make things happen and compete with some of the best teams playing.”
This message was supported by footballing legend Kevin Keegan. In a Star Chat, hosted by Sky Sports’ Hayley McQueen, Keegan said that he believes the World Cup will be a success: “I think Qatar will surprise a lot of people with the World Cup. I think it will be a great world cup, no doubt about it.”
In another Star Chat later in that day, Qatar’s high jumping world champion Mutaz Barshim, discussed his ambition to inspire future generation of athletes to do great things, both in Qatar and around the world.
He said: “I want to be remembered for being the greatest ever. I want to be someone that inspires people to get out and do something with their life.”
He also highlighted how partnering with the Aspire Academy has helped him to not only compete with the best athletes in the world, but to beat them, as he did by winning gold at the most recent World Championships held in London.
He said: “The Aspire Academy is the pillar for sportspeople in Doha. Not just in football but also for athletics. At the Aspire Academy, there are so many people working hard to make sure Qatar has athletes performing at the highest level.”
“The most important thing the Academy taught me was self-confidence. It changed my mindset as an athlete, as I started to see myself as a professional athlete in my mind.”
“Another thing they gave me is time. Some parents think sport is a waste of time, that you should concentrate on your studies. But with the Aspire Academy, I didn’t have to choose. I received both the best sports training and an education delivered to the highest standard. Here you have everything in the same place, along with the best coaches and the best facilities.”