DOHA, FEBRUARY 19 – As the whistle blows indicating the end of the football match, 35 young boys run and jump, full of energy and adrenaline, celebrating not just their stellar performance on the pitch, but also, being one step closer to turning their dreams into reality.
This year, Qatar Airways is proud to have partnered with Aspire Academy’s Aspire Football Dreams programme, and were on hand to welcome the youngsters as they arrived at Aspire Academy in Senegal for their final assessment in hopes of getting one step closer to a career in professional football.
Aspire Football Dreams coaches, staff and more than 4,000 volunteers, assessed 400,000 13-year-old football players, at approximately 650 football fields, in 14 countries over the last year.
Those selected to enter the Academy this year, will form the Qatar Airways & Aspire Academy – Football Dreams Africa team, and will be flown to Barcelona to play against FC Barcelona’s youth team, courtesy of the airline.
Launched in 2007, Aspire Football Dreams provides young football players from developing countries with the opportunity to reach the heights of international football through training and development at their Academy located in Senegal.
Each year, the programme selects up to 20 13-year-old boys who go through a rigorous assessment process in the hopes of being selected to attend the Academy where they train, compete, study and learn to manage their lives and careers successfully, with the goal of one day playing for a professional club or their respective national teams.
Having already tested two million football players since the beginning of the programme eight years ago, Aspire Football Dreams is the largest-ever talent search in football.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways is extremely proud to be partnering with Aspire Football Dreams in Africa, a programme that not only encourages sport, which is in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, but that also provides a life-changing opportunity for youth that are willing to work hard to nurture and develop their natural talents.
“We are pleased to be able to fly the Qatar Airways & Aspire Academy – Football Dreams Africa team to Barcelona to participate in a friendly match between the FC Barcelona youth team, and wish both teams the best of luck.”
“The game in Barcelona is going to be a great experience for these youngsters, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are delighted and proud that Qatar Airways partners up with us in this unique initiative. Giving young people in Africa the chance to fulfill their potential and pursue their dream of playing football on the world stage is an important objective for ASPIRE. They will grow as individuals through this special project,” said Ivan Bravo, Director General of Aspire Academy, on the upcoming game in Barcelona.
After flying in from all over the African continent to Senegal, the boys met with their new teammates and spent the week training before taking to the pitch in two matches against Spanish youth team, RCD Espanyol.
Coaches had the opportunity to assess each of the players on the field as they worked together to defeat RCD Espanyol 1-0 in the first match, and held them off during the final match, walking off the field nil-nil.
-more than game-
For those chosen as a member of the Qatar Airways & Aspire Academy – Football Dreams Africa team, it is more than just playing a game they love, it is a life-changing opportunity.
With the majority of boys coming from disadvantaged areas, many train specifically for the Aspire Football Dreams annual try-outs in the hopes that their talent on the pitch will be recognised by one of the scouts.
By actively searching for football talent in towns and villages, Aspire Football Dreams are finding plenty of football talent in Africa’s large untapped pool of skilled players.
Results of the Aspire Football Dreams programme have already been made evident with a number of graduating students being signed to professional teams in Europe, including Diawandou Diagne, who signed with FC Barcelona B team this past July.
Qatar Airways is also offering fans a chance to fly to Barcelona to watch the friendly match between the Qatar Airways & Aspire Academy – Football Dreams Africa team and FC Barcelona youth team. Fans can support this project by subscribing at http://www.qatarairways.com/footballdreamsafrica or watch http://youtu.be/ICVwfmY1wSA for more information.