Doha, 11 April 2018. In course of the 11th edition of the Schools Olympic Program (SOP), the finals of the football competition took place on the indoor pitch of Aspire Academy on April 10. The year’s event marked a special edition, because this time the Qatar School Sports Association (QSSA) partnered up with Aspire Academy and the Qatar Football Association (QFA) and also reached an all-time high in the number of participants.
The SOP is held annually as a collaborative effort of Qatar School Sports Association (QSSA) and Ministry of Education and Higher Education, with thousands of student competing from all over Qatar in different individual and group sports. The SOP committee aims to spread a culture of sports throughout Qatar's schools and to engage the entire community in active and healthy lifestyles while retaining local values and traditions.
“We are very happy with the 11th edition of the SOP and we have noticed an increase of the level and skills of the students throughout the different sports. The role of sport is very important for kids, because it teaches them important values and introduces them to a healthy lifestyle,” said QSSA President Rabia Mohammed al-Kaabi.
The 2017-18 SOP football tournament was launched in October 2017, the games were held on 32 days in numerous locations in Qatar and involved 3000 students from 192 schools. A number that marked a new record for the program. “The collaboration between the involved entities was perfect and everyone is really proud with this year’s outcome. The whole competition made a step forward and we also want to thank everyone who was involved and supported the SOP,” said Wajdi Boussarsar, member of the Technical Committee of the QFA.
“This partnership is beneficiary for everyone and it provides Aspire Academy an additional opportunity to identify talented young athletes with the potential to be recruited for the Academy,” explained Ali Ahmad Al-Hitmi, Aspire Academy’s Deputy Director of Education & Student Affairs and the QSSA Secretary General.
When it came to awarding the winning teams – Newton (primary stage, 1st level), Malik bin Anas (primary stage, 2nd level), Yarmouk (preparatory stage, 3rd level), M.E.S. Indian School (secondary stage, 4th level) – Al-Gharafa star player Wesley Sneijder was among the guests of honor, who handed over the trophies.
The Dutch midfielder, who had played for some of Europe’s biggest clubs such as Real Madrid or Ajax and won the UEFA Champions League with FC Internazionale in 2010, was impressed by the event and the passion the students showed on the pitch. “Sport is very important for children at this age, especially since kids have access to all kinds of technology and it’s easy for them to stay at home and play computer games. But I also keep telling my twelve-year-old son to go out as much as possible and do the sport he likes, because it’s very good for the health.”
Asked about the chances to see some of these young players on a professional level in a few years, he said that it would be hard to tell at this point. “You can see that some have exceptional qualities, but at this age it’s the most important thing for them to enjoy the game and play as much as possible. I started out the same way when I was a kid.”