Qatar’s ‘special relationship’ with Spanish football has been praised ahead of the launch of a unique youth football tournament due to kick-off in Doha on Saturday.
Held at Aspire Academy, the u15s competition will feature 10of Spain’s biggest and best La Ligaclubs including Atlético Madrid, Valencia and Sevilla. They will be competing alongside two Qatari clubs – including an u15s team from Aspire Academy and a team made up of Qatar’s best school footballers.
With each of the 21 competition games free to attend, the five-day tournament will offer local football fans a rare chance to witness the next Diego Costa, Fernando Torres or CescFabregas showcasing their skills.
On Friday evening the tournament was officially launched at a technical meeting at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Doha.
With most of the Spanish clubs arriving the day before, the event was a chance for all competing teams to meet for the first time and familiarise themselves with competition rules and regulations ahead of the first set of matches on Saturday.
Opening the meeting, Ward Abdullah, a senior officer from the tournament organising committee, said, “After three months of hardwork and meticulous planning, it’s a joy to see all of the clubs here tonight ahead of this unique competition.
“Qatar and Spain are two proud footballing nations and both share a very unique, special relationship when it comes to the beautiful game.
“I am sure this fantastic competition can only improve this relationship and bring Spain and Qatar’s footballing environments closer together.”
The launch of the competition follows a memorandum of understanding signed in December 2013 between Aspire Academy’s Director General Ivan Bravo and La Liga President Javier Tebas.
Under the accord, which recognises Qatar’s place as a global footballing centre, both La Liga and Aspire Academy agreed to launch ‘The Liga de Futbol Professional – Aspire Challenge’ as a method of promoting each organisation on the global stage.
It is hoped that the young Spanish footballers will benefit from experiencing Qatar’s unique culture, and alsofrom competing in an international tournament.
Kicking off the competition on Saturday will be current La Liga leaders Atlético Madrid in an opening fixture versus RCD Espanyol at 4pm.
Admitting some nerves ahead of the match at Friday’s technical meeting, XaviPeco, an assistant coach from Espanyol’s Academy team, acknowledged the opening game would be tough for his players but insisted they were looking forward to participating.
“To be honest, we are fully aware how difficult this tournament is going to be for us but we are delighted to be here in Qatar and we have been excited about this for a long period of time,” Paco said.
“We hope this competition can provide our young players some important tournament experience and also teach the footballers a little bit about this part of the world.
“I am looking forward to the matches and hope that we can make our fans in Spain and in Qatar proud of our performances.”
For football fans interested in attending any of the Saturday games, temporary stands have been set up on the side of Aspire Academy pitches 4 and 5, where all matches will take place.
The games will be held each evening and there will be a special fanzone for children and families to enjoy the action.
Other highlights on Saturday include Almeria vs Aspire Academy (5.30pm), Sevillavs Valencia (7pm) and Villarealvs AC Bilbao (8.30pm).
Visitors do not need to book in advance, with Qatar’s Spanish ex-pat community expected to create a vibrant atmosphere throughout the tournament.