Rumori di Spogliatoio

Qatar, 'building' football success

Angelo PalmeriComment

This article appeared on ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’ on Sunday the 21st of December ahead of the Juventus-Napoli Supercup final that was played in Doha Qatar.
Rumori offers a translation of the article writte by Fabiana Della Valle ahead of the last game of 2014 for the Estonian national team.


An aerial view of Doha, Qatar's capital 

An aerial view of Doha, Qatar's capital 

Sea on one side and desert on the other. A lot of traffic and a myriad of building sites. We’re in Doha, Qatar, the much-discussed venue of World Cup 2022. Here, the emir Al-Thani (same family owning Paris Saint-Germain) dreams of realizing an amazing edition of the tournament and, at the same time, to present a national team that would not show him up among the powerhouses. Under that point of view, it’s been a work in progress. Italy is a model. Similarly to Chinese trying to counterfeit our brands, they are trying to copy us. Especially on the technical and tactical point of view, where they lack more. This is the reason why they import Italians or people who worked in our country. One of them, it is Walter Di Salvo, former sports trained at Lazio, Man United and Real Madrid, he was called up 5 years ago to handle the country’s football performances.

Walter Di Salvo during his time at Real Madrid

Walter Di Salvo during his time at Real Madrid

PROGRESSES. The main target is to build up the national team that shall represent Qatar in 2022, when they will play home. ‘’However, our target is to qualify also for Russia 2018,’’ says Di Salvo, director of performance football department of the Aspire Academy, who has brought a new work philosophy. The Aspire Academy is a small pearl. There are 13 pitches and one indoor stadium. Here kids study and play, not only football. Di Salvo is the glue between the Academy (where all youth national teams train) the QFA (Qatar Football Association) and the Qatar Star League, the country’s top-fligh. ‘’I have created a common package for all teams: the players perform the same test three times a year and they use the same match analysis system in order to estimate the physical parameters and have a complete picture of the game. We want to improve the level of Qatar’s football by rising the quality of performances and therefore of the Star League.’’ Just figure out how happy Antonio Conte (the Italian national team coach –edit) would be to receive such a similar report before making the call-ups. Something that happens to his Qatar colleague, coach Djamel Belmadi. However, differently from Italy, clubs are not private enterprises, they are financed by the government. The football movement growth goes through the national team, and Qatar wants a team able to compete in 2022. Some progresses have been seen already. After 30 years, Qatar have managed to qualify for the U-20 World Cup in 2015. The Aspire Academy managed to win the U-7 trophy (Milk Cup) in 2011 by beating 5-1 Man United in the final.

SALARIES AND PERFORMANCES. The organization created is unique, however you cannot build up talent in a lab. The simple fact that no one can remind a single name of Qatar players says a lot about the level here. Do you know Ibrahim Kalfan, playmaker at Al-Sadd? He is the best local produce. At Aspire Academy there are also a lot of youngsters who arrived thanks to the ‘’Football Dream’’. It is a project created to find the best African talents. A lot of observers deem that Qatar are trying to build their own national team for 2022 by snatching the promising stars from other countries’ hands. There are 14 clubs in the Qatar Star League. The most important one is the abovementioned Al-Sadd. Former Real Madrid’s Raul was there up to one year ago. Al-Sadd are topping the table together with Lekhwiya, the defending Champions. Lekhwiya’s coach is Michael Laudrup. Yes, that Michael Laudrup. And the old faces from Serie A are many: Chico (Genoa) Weiss (Pescara), Paulinho (Livorno), Mark Bresciano (Palermo) and former Olympique Lyonnaise striker Lisandro Lopez. Each club can have no more than 4 foreigners and there’s a lot difference between their salaries and the ones of the other players. A normal salary is 500,000€ per year. Raul was earning 4 million euros. There are 7 level of salaries and they are connected with performances. ‘’It is the so-called salary valuation,’’ explains Di Salvo ‘’they take into consideration how many minutes you played, the trainings and the quality of the performances: it’s an incentive to perform well.’’ However, there’ve been troubles. As with the French-Algerian striker Belounis. He was signed in 2007 by Al-Jaish, however, 4 years later, he was marginalized. He recounted he was not paid anymore and he spent 19 months in Doha as a prisoner since the local authorities where denying him a visa.

SSC Napoli clinched the Supercup after an almost endless series of penalty shoot-outs (2-2 the result after extra time - the travelling squad featured also three former teammates of Frank Liivak)

SSC Napoli clinched the Supercup after an almost endless series of penalty shoot-outs (2-2 the result after extra time - the travelling squad featured also three former teammates of Frank Liivak)

REHEARSALS. Stadiumgoers in Qatar are little. How ever, they go crazy for European football since they follow Liga, Premier League and Serie A a lot. When a big star of football comes here to play, his teammates take pictures with him as if they were common supporters. Juventus is among the most popular clubs after Real Madrid, Barcelona and Man United. Organizing the Italian Supercup in Doha was a way to test their abilities in hosting a big football event before the World Cup. Qatar has paid 2,4 million euros to host the game at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium (14,000 seats, it will not be a World Cup venue). Initially, the idea was to build 12 venues (4 in Doha), however they are now thinking to bring the number to 8. The issue of work safety in the building sites has created a lot of uproar. The International Trade Union Confederation, main trade union organization at world level, has been keeping to press charges against the unbearable work conditions of the immigrants operating in the sites. According to the organization, there have been hundreds of construction workers dying in the sites. However, evidence of this cannot be found in Doha.  

By Fabiana Della Valle, Doha (Qatar)
'La Gazzetta dello Sport'
Translation by Angelo Palmeri