Doha, 30 May 2019. The 2018-19 season of Aspire Academy’s football department concluded on Wednesday with the final day of the latest Tri-Series tournament that brought youth teams of the Malaysian Football Federation and Greek club PAOK to Doha, where they challenged the U13, U15 and U17 teams of Aspire.
After three days of exciting games and spectacular goals, PAOK was crowned winner of the U17s and U15s, while Malaysia could take home the trophy in the U13 category. Aspire Academy’s teams missed out closely on winning one of the big trophies, finishing second in each tournament. “These tournaments have a lot of benefits for our players. They grow with the challenges they face, and we are happy to see that they are more and more taking over the initiative in the games. They want to be the protagonists and carefully try to execute they games plans they get, because they know that this is the foundation to be successful,” said Edorta Murua, Aspire Academy’s Technical Football Director.
“The days that teams from abroad come here to have a fun time, show off their football skills and go home with a big trophy are over. Now the teams know that they must work very hard if they want to win something. And you saw by the way PAOK’s U17 celebrated, how happy they were to finish on top of the table, because their last game against Aspire, that ended 3-3, was a real thriller that could have gone either way,” says Murua.
PAOK FC’s U17 coach, Alexandros Alexiadis, agrees: “We faced a very strong side of Aspire today with good players and a clear philosophy. We really did everything to win, but in the end, we had to be happy about the draw that was enough to win our age group. This experience in Doha has been great for our players. Ten of the players of my team are also playing for Greek’s youth national and if they keep up the good work, some might have the chance to be back in 2022 with Greece for the World Cup.”
Malaysia Mohd Khushairialso stressed how important the tournament was for his payer to gain more international experience. “The organization was great, and we are very grateful that Aspire
Academy gave us the opportunity to be part of this event. For players of this age it’s crucial to get as much exposure as possible and playing against teams from Asia and Europe is a great way for them to gain valuable experiences.”
This was the second Tri-series in the month of May and came on the back of another fiercely contested set of matches from 19- 23rd May 2019 that featured generations 2001, 2003 and 2005 and involved Greek club side, Panathinaikos and Tunisian club side, Etoile Sportive du Sahel and host Aspire Academy. In this the first Tri-Series in May , Panathinaikos emerged victorious in the U-18 and U-16 with Etoile Sportive du Sahel winning the U-14 category. Aspire teams acquitted themselves well albeit not finishing in top positions.
The Tri-Series tournament are going to continue in the upcoming season at Aspire and will be, according to Edorta Murua, one of the most important learning tools for the talents of the Academy. “This competition is crucial for the development of our players. Moreover, we are trying to provide them also the possibility to go on training camps abroad. These tools are making it easy for the youngsters to accumulate new experiences, overcome challenges and help to close the gaps to other international football academies.”