26 Feb 2020

Doha, 26 February 2020. In course of promoting the 1000-day-countdown to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, former Arsenal FC manager and FIFA’s current Chief of Global Football Development Arsene Wenger visited Aspire Academy on Monday afternoon. During this visit, student-athletes had the opportunity to take pictures with the FIFA World Cup trophy and Wenger also shared his thoughts about Aspire Academy and the development of football in Qatar.

Mr. Wenger, welcome to Aspire Academy. What is the impression that you got of this place during your visit?
Arsene Wenger: First of all, I follow a lot what they do here at Aspire, because it’s a very interesting experience to develop the game. What is impressive, of course, are the resources here, but as well the way they look for quality and the rationality behind it, the level of organization, the quality of the infrastructure is absolutely impressive. They start to work with children at a very young age, they coach all kinds of different sports and they select the best every year. One of the advantages they have here is that it’s a small country, so they can get anybody. They can get very quickly the best playing with the best, which is a hugely important factor in the improvement of the players. The number of coaches at Aspire is massive and I looked at the organization of the training sessions and it’s perfect. It’s well prepared, well thought and there’s a plan behind it. Overall, you can only be impressed.

I’m sure you have followed the recent success of Qatar’s Senior Football National Team, especially when they won the AFC Asian Cup last year. Seventy percent of the players in the squad were developed at Aspire. Would you agree that the youth development in Qatar is on the right path?
Arsene Wenger:
Yes, it’s an encouragement for the country. At the moment I would say that if you get a world map, football in Europe is well organized, well structured and the rest of the world is falling behind. There is huge need to organize things for football at that (youth) level. Let’s be a bit realistic. That level here is impossible for most of the countries in the world, but structure used in football is vital and that’s my target at FIFA and what I’d like to do as it is part of my job to develop mass football in many countries, where there is no structure in football and no education of the youth.

In 2022, the FIFA World Cup is taking place in Qatar. Do you think that this event is going to push football once more in this region?
Arsene Wenger: Yes, it will push football in this region. You could already feel the excitement now, 1000 days before the World Cup starts and you see that the effort that is behind it is absolutely huge and everybody starts to be focused on the next World Cup. What I would like and what I want is that this here (at Aspire) continues after the World Cup and I think it will. But it will also push many countries around here, if Qatar does well, to do the same thing.

You also had the opportunity to talk to a few young football players at Aspire Academy. What was your main message for them?
Arsene Wenger: My main message was that football is the most difficult sport, because you play with your feet and you always have to split your attention between up and down, you have to get the timing right when you have to look down and when you have to look up. It’s also a very difficult sport, because you have limited practice time, you cannot practice eight hours a day. So that means that you should try to use every second, don’t waste any time and assess how you performed. I think that top level people have a good analysis of their performances and I encouraged them (the Aspire Academy student-athletes) to do that every day. Go home and put down in writing what you have done, how well you have done it and think about it, so next day you have a chance to be better.

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