Following the successful qualification for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Championship by reaching the semi-final, Qatar’s youth national team – a mix of graduates and student-athletes of Aspire Academy – topped this achievement by claiming the AFC U-19 Championship title after a 1-0 victory over DPR Korea in Thursday’s final at Thuwunna Youth Training Centre Stadium in Myanmar.
Qatar’s U-19 coach, Felix Sanchez Bas, said:
I’m very happy for this incredible achievement, especially for the players who have shown a great attitude throughout and were a pleasure to work with during this whole tournament, We knew that it was a good opportunity for us to end this title drought and the players did everything to win this championship for themselves and for the country of Qatar.’
The final was decided by a single goal scored by substitute Akram Afif, who was on target to give Qatar the lead after 50 minutes and ultimately end the Korean hopes of a fourth title, despite championship glory in two of the four previous tournaments. For Qatar, the result caps off an undefeated campaign in Myanmar with the historic victory resulting in their first AFC championship title since they lifted the AFC U-16 Championship trophy in 1990.
Two players of his team had a second reason to celebrate: Ahmed Moeen was named ‘Player of the Tournament’, his teammate Ahmed Al Sadi won the top scorer award. Moen said:
It means a lot for Qatar to win this tournament. We worked hard for this success and I am proud that I was named the ‘Most Valuable Player’ of the championship, which would not have been possible without the help of my teammates. All of them showed great performances as well.’
All 24 players of Qatar’s U-19 football national team in Myanmar have been with Aspire Academy, most of them have already graduated, while some are still student athletes at the Academy. The penetration of Aspire players in Qatari national teams has also increased this year to 100% also for the U-17 national team that also qualified for AFC Championship like the U-19. On senior level 18% of the players in Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2014 qualification squad were graduates from Aspire Academy, which was established in 2004.
On Saturday 25 October 2014, the successful Qatar U-19 national team arrived back in Doha and hundreds of people came to Hamad International Airport (HIA) to welcome the team at the ministerial lounge. HH Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Personal Representative of HH The Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, led the team’s greetings upon their arrival at HIA. Also present were HE Salah bin Ghanim Al Ali, the Minister of Youth and Sports, HE Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Secretary General of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), in addition to many senior sports officials and heads of sports clubs, associations and a large number of retired football players.
Among the people eagerly awaiting the arrival of the team were also families and friends of the players as well as a great number of management, staff and students from Aspire Academy. Director of Education and Student Care of the Academy, Badr Al Hay, said:
We have been waiting a long time for a success like this and this result will help Aspire Academy a lot, because it is evidence that our mission is right. But, of course, it will be even more important to keep up the good work in order to achieve good results at the World Cup in 2022.’
In order to honour the great achievement of the Academy’s graduates, student-athletes and the coaching staff a special gala dinner took place at the Academy on the evening of Sunday 26 October 2014.