Posted on January 03, 2017

Year after year, Aspire Zone has continued on its successful journey towards its vision of becoming the reference in sports excellence by 2020. It is achieving this through its ongoing development of athletes and efforts to promote a sporting culture within the local community in line with Qatar’s National Development Strategy for the development of the sporting sector. 

To realise its vision, AZF and its member organisations - Aspire Academy, Aspetar and Aspire logistics - have adopted a unique collaborative approach. Through this approach, every activity reflects the foundations` mission to improve sports performance by nurturing champions and enhancing their skills, host events to the highest standards and contribute to the development of the sports sector in Qatar. All these efforts are guided by organisation-wide values, including accountability, teamwork, integration, respect and desire to excel.

Over the last 12 months, AZF has continued to make significant progress towards its vision, further cementing its reputation as a leading sporting hub for decision makers, community members and sporting icons worldwide, and as an essential element of athletes` journeys to excellence.

Unprecedented innovations and continuous support in the sporting arena

By mid-2016, AZF set another world record when it returfed Al Sadd SC Stadium in under 14 hours and 40 minutes. The new turf was developed by the Qatar Turf Research Centre, located within Aspire Zone, the first of its kind in the Middle East. In the programming field, the Department of Information Technology at AZF has developed an application for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. The new app is designed to keep track of the welfare of labourers working on 2022 projects, providing an efficient tool to help the SC monitor contractors’ compliance with the its stringent Workers’ Welfare Standards, which ensure workers’ rights are protected from the moment they arrive in Qatar right through to their repatriation.

The application was made available to contactors and SC auditors through iPads, PCs and cell phones. It took three and a half months to develop with this new system, reflecting the core values of innovation and cooperation at AZF. Towards the end of 2016, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in cooperation with AZF, revealed an innovative cooled helmet that has been designed and developed by researchers from Qatar University to reduce the skin temperature of construction workers by up to 10 degrees centigrade.

The solar-powered helmet has been rigorously tested, patented worldwide and put into production by a group of Doha-based scientists and will provide more comfortable working conditions for workers during summer. AZF’s partnership with the SC comes as part of a series of joint initiatives seeking to provide all the necessary support for an historic World Cup that leaves an inspiring legacy for Qatar in all fields, including the field of technology.

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International achievements and accreditation

During 2016, AZF achieved success at different levels. Early last year, Aspire Zone Foundation inaugurated the west expansion of Aspetar as a part of the hospital’s efforts to help athletes achieve the highest levels of performance through its facilities and services. The new athlete expansion includes several facilities and services. In January 2016, the hospital received a prestigious "Platinum Level" accolade by Accreditation Canada International (ACI), an award of excellence from the FIMS 2016 World Congress of Sports Medicine, for Aspetar's high safety criteria and excellent medical care and services. 

In terms of education, Aspire Academy obtained a prestigious Council of International Schools (CIS) accreditation following a five-year application process - the latest in a number of accreditations obtained by the Academy. One of Aspire Academy’s graduates, High Jumper Mutaz Barshim, claimed Qatar’s first-ever silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, making him a role model for student-athletes at Aspire Academy and a source of inspiration for a new generation of young Qatari athletes. In June, Aspire Academy celebrated its ninth graduation with thirty-six (36) student athletes capped at a ceremony to mark the end of the 2015-16 academic year. This brings the total number of graduates to 280 students since the Academy’s establishment. The student athletes graduated in several sports, including football, squash, athletics, swimming, table tennis and shooting and will form the next generation of Qatar’s sports teams and clubs.

The end of this year also saw the completion of the "Kun Riyadi" (Be an Athlete) project, a unique Athlete Development Pathway (ADP) model developed by the Qatar Olympic Committee in partnership with Aspire Academy that seeks to produce a new generation of Qatari sporting champions. Furthermore, Aspire-owned Belgian club KAS Eupen was promoted to the Belgian First Division, marking yet another success for the club and an opportunity for Aspire Academy’s graduates to take part in other prestigious football tournaments in Europe. Aspire Academy alumni played a crucial role in Eupen’s strong performance in the 2015/16 season, with Striker Akram Afif scoring six goals in 16 games.

Similarly, Spanish club Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa have enjoyed considerable success in recent years. Since the club was bought by Aspire Zone Foundation in 2015, excitement about the club’s future has grown enormously amongst fans and members of the local community, particularly after they drew against Spanish giants Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey’s round of 32.

Aspire Zone inks several partnerships to achieve its mission

Driven by its vision to become the reference in sports excellence worldwide by 2020, several key partnership agreements were signed throughout the year of with leading sporting organisations, including the Foundation and the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) Group. The agreement aimed to establish a Centre of Excellence for natural sports turf research and development in service of Qatar’s sports facilities. Other key agreements signed by Aspetar, a member organised of Aspire Zone Foundation, were with some of the world’s most popular footballing clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur (England) and Angers SCO (France). As part of the agreement, Aspetar is providing world-class medical services that include medical screening, research, athlete rehabilitation and orthopaedic surgery at the FIFA-accredited Medical Centre of Excellence.

Locally, Aspetar have signed clinical training agreements with academic institutions including Qatar University and the College of North Atlantic Qatar (CNA-Q) to offer training and practical experience in the provision of health care and patient care opportunities to students who wish to fulfill their academic requirements. Meanwhile, Aspire Academy signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Qatar Fencing Federation (QFF) to establish a National Fencing Pathway (NFP) programme, a world-class programme that develops athletes and prepares them for successful participation in Asian and global competitions, including the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Aspire Academy has also partnered with global technology company SAP to enable Aspire Academy coaches, sport scientists, athletes, and management to easily access real-time data on athlete performance development, sports science, and sports operations management on any mobile device, supporting global best practices in youth athlete development. On an international level, a new partnership was formed between Aspire Academy, the Qatar Football Association and the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC), with QFA and Aspire Director of Football Performance and Science, Prof. Valter Di Salvo, now leading the design and implementation of performance programmes for Italy’s national footballing body.  

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AZF provides world-class sporting events locally and internationally:

Aspire Zone Foundation has set up a number of world-class events that marked it as a leading sporting hub in Qatar and the region. Some of the key events hosted by the Foundation and its member organisations include the ‘Challenges in Football Injuries’ medical conference, hosted by Aspetar in partnership with the FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence in Doha and the International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (ISAKOS).

Aspetar, in collaboration with the Health Ministers’ Council for GCC States, also hosted the first ever GCC Sports Medicine Conference, which brought experts from around the world to Doha to discuss a variety of health topics related to sports. Other events included the first AFC/Aspetar Sports Physiotherapy Course, and the region’s first Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Master Class, which took place at the recently unveiled state-of-the-art training facilities in the hospital’s West Wing. Furthermore, the 2016 Aspire4Sport and Global Summit on Football Performance & Science was hosted in the iconic city of Amsterdam. Both events, held in conjunction with each other, saw unprecedented participation of leading sporting figures, featuring the likes of Andres Villas-Boas, Xavi Hernandez, Ronald de Boer, Carles Puyol, Edwin van der Sar and Marc Overmars.

International and local sporting tournaments

Aspire Zone Foundation, in partnership with the Qatar Athletics Federation, and the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU), successfully held the second edition of the IAU 50km World Championship, with over 100 athletes from 20 different countries taking part. Held in conjunction with that tournament, Aspire Zone also hosted the 6.50K International Race for local community members, providing local amateur runners with the opportunity to compete against the best athletes in ultrarunning.  

Other highly popular local events organised by the Foundation as part of its efforts to promote a sporting culture and healthy lifestyles among local community members include Qatar’s Strongest Man, the Aspire Torch Staircase Run, the first Aspire Water Polo competition in Qatar, the Aspire Banks Tournament and the Aspire Embassies Tournament. Aspire Zone Foundation also strives to mark key dates, such as the National Sports Day, with a set of unique sporting activities including the 3K Fun Run, climbing, judo and cycling. During the holy month of Ramadan, Aspire Zone Foundation makes sure that members maintain an active lifestyle while fasting, organising sporting activities as part of its annual Ramadan Sports Festival and Freej Aspire.

Elite training camps at Aspire Zone Foundation’s state-of-the-art facilities

As with every year, Aspire Zone regularly hosts elite training camps for top-tier athletes and sports teams, attracting the likes of Bayern Munich and Zenit St Petersburg in 2016. With a combined total of 11 training camps over the year, these training camps nurture elite sporting talent, allowing athletes to compete at their maximum potential and providing them with a whole host of integrated sporting services in one place.

Aspire Zone Foundation is a regular stop for leading sporting delegations

Throughout the year of 2016, Aspire Zone Foundation and its member organisations became a regular stop for leading delegations visiting Doha either for treatment or to participate in major international events taking place in Qatar.

Some of the key international high-level delegation visiting Aspire Zone’s this year included HRH Prince Frederick, the Crown Prince of Denmark, and HH Princess Mary, the Crown Princess of Denmark, International Olympic Committee President, Tomas Bach, ANOC delegation comprised of International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President, and President of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey, Prof. Ugur Erdener, CEO of the Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid, Gene Sykes, and Vice-Chairman of the Budapest 2024 Olympic bid, Ambassador Gusztav Bienerth, Soccerex delegation led by its Chairman, Tony Martin, popular Italian midfielder, Marco Verratti, Irish goalkeeper, Shay Givan, and iconic Brazilian footballer, Roberto Carlos, among others.

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