26 Jan 2020
Doha, 25th January 2020. Austrian Football League champions Red Bull Salzburg wound up a 9-day winter break training camp at Aspire Academy in Qatar with an impressive 6-3 win over Russian League champions, Zenit St Petersburg. Red Bull Salzburg, a club that is quickly earning a glowing reputation in Europe club competition courtesy of a fine run in this season’s champions League. The Austrians finished third in group E, behind Napoli and defending champions, Liverpool and sailed straight to the last 32 of Europa League.
The world class training facilities with well-manicured playing fields walking distance from the hotels and stone throw-away from Aspetar an Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, a FIFA accredited Medical Centre has already seen some of Europe’s top clubs amongst them FC Bayern Munich, Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, Zenit St Petersburg, Club Bruges, and Kas Eupen hold training camp this month of January 2020.
Each of these clubs count among their players, internationals. There are some have been on training camp at Aspire with their national teams in preparation for major tournaments but for many the first-time experience at Aspire is mind blowing. This was the case with Zambian duo of striker, Patson Daka and his compatriot, midfielder Enock Mwepu. From the time they landed in Doha with their club Red Bull Salzburg knew this was going to be an eye-opening experience.
“I had not been to Qatar before, although l was aware of the country and how the 2022 FIFA world cup would be held here, l have been pleasantly shocked by what l have seen here. This has been one of the best training camps l have had and to have all that a football player needs at his disposal right before you, is fantastic. The training pitches are walking distance from the hotel and there is a state-of-the-art gym by the pitch side, it is simply a player’s dream the facilities they have at Aspire. I honestly knew very little about Aspire Academy and having been here, l am well motivated and dead keen to come back with “Chipolopolo”- Zambia national football team for 2022 World Cup, said Daka, - the 2017 Confederation of African Football Young Player of the year.
“There are some fellow African national teams, like Cameroon, Algeria and Mali who l know held training camp here at Aspire Academy prior to 2019 Africa Cup of Nations final and commendable and the kind of professional preparation more national teams should be aiming for”, added Mwepu. You can tell that this place Aspire is on another level- higher level in terms of training and preparation. During this camp we had opportunity to see one of the 2022 World Cup venues, Khalifa Stadium which just next to where we are staying- Torch Hotel. It is finished, it is a wonderfully build stadium and which footballer in the world would not want to play in the world cup in a beautiful place like Qatar. The draw for 2022 qualifiers done a few days ago, put us in with Tunisia, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea and it will be tough but for sure like Patson, my experience on this training camp has encouraged me and l want to play here with Zambia in 2022, said Mwepu.
The Zambian duo, combined on the field in a friendly match against Qatar Stars League side, Al Arabi to get the 5th goal for Red Bull Salzburg. Mwepu pounced on a misplaced pass from Al Arabi goalminder, played through Daka who hammered the ball into the net. The Zambians continued their stellar performances in the second friendly match against Zenit St Petersburg with Daka assisting with the first goal. The Zambia duo admitted, Qatar had turned out to be so enjoyable and productive that they would like to visit again. “This time it was mainly about winter break training although we enjoyed a little bit of the delights of the desert, riding camels and being driven on steep sand dunes- we have discovered a lovely, hospitable country that is worth visiting for holidays and we will certainly be back. Aspire Academy has everything we could wish for to prepare well here. Above all, the training facilities and condition of the pitches are truly incredible, we are going to mention and recommend Aspire Academy to our Zambia Football Association leadership to see if it could be possible to hold training camp here like has been the case with other national teams,” concluded Daka
It was not only the players waxing lyrical about their training camp at Aspire Academy as Red Bull Salzburg wound up their trip. Head coach Jesse Marsch concluded saying, “That was a superb performance from our team today against Zenit St Petersburg. We used three different formations today, and we did well on the whole. A lot of our players performed very strongly and were very effective in a lot of moves. It was a great way to finish a very good training camp. Our team had a superb energy every day at the training camp. Our boys worked really well, and I am very pleased with their mentality. We had the four best training sessions since I came to Salzburg out here at Aspire Academy , in my opinion. It was a good indication of what we can do in the five months ahead in which we have a lot of exciting challenges.”