Monday, April 14, 2014

UN Special Adviser praises Supreme Committee’s Workers’ Welfare Standards

Following on from a visit to the Workers Cup football tournament which has reached the knock-out rounds, the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr Wilfried Lemke, has praised the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s Workers’ Welfare Standards and called on their swift implementation.

‘During my visits to the Workers’ Cup and workers’ accommodation, I was pleased to learn about the developments happening in Qatar with regards to the safeguarding of rights of workers on construction sites for the preparation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. In particular, the standards that have been formulated for workers' welfare are a good step in the improvement of conditions. Of key importance now is their implementation based on a strong monitoring and follow-up mechanism with appropriate capacity and resource allocation. A corresponding adaption of relevant laws would also contribute to the realisation of the World Cup Organising Committee's commitments,’ said Mr Lemke.

Meanwhile, as the Supreme Committee’s Workers’ Welfare Standards are already being implemented on the ground at the first stadium construction site for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ in Al Wakrah, a group of employees from the new stadium’s early works contractor, AMANA, has reached the quarterfinals of the 2014 Workers Cup.

Already into the knock-out stages of the tournament, the Workers Cup continues to improve following the inaugural edition last year. The group stage and round of 16 matches have concluded with a total of 44 games played so far and 8 teams qualifying for the quarterfinals.

Mr Lemke praised the tournament after seeing the action and talking to players on the first match-day:

‘I strongly believe that such efforts will bear fruit in terms of the social legacy that the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will imprint for and beyond the event.’

In 3960 minutes of exciting football at venues across Qatar – including Al Sadd Stadium, where Raúl González plies his trade, for the opening ceremony and inaugural match – a total of 198 goals were scored and celebrated by a large number of spectators and teams in attendance.

‘We are delighted see how this initiative has grown again this year. As we make progress on the ground, we will continue to reach out to communities across the country, and would like to wish all the qualified teams success in the quarterfinals,’ said Nasser Al Khater, Executive Director, Communications and Marketing, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.

‘The group stages have been a success, with the launch event at Al Sadd Stadium, the interaction between players, fans and team management on the pitch, as well as the enthusiasm of the players and general enjoyment of the games as some of the highlights so far. We look forward to seeing more top quality matches as the knock-out stages continue this weekend.’

The top goal scorer of the tournament is Dineesh Mogan of Barzan Super Kings, with 13 goals in four games, followed by Alexander Maina from AMANA with 6.

The quarterfinals will be held at Al Wakrah Sports Club this weekend, with considerable crowds expected once more. So far the spectators total has been led by Gulf Contracting, who brought 3,000 fans to the opening match, while ETA Stars (500) and AMANA (250) have also supported their teams in droves. Around 1,000 fans attend a match day on average.

Padam Tamang, a player from Gulf Contacting said: ‘This is a very big opportunity for me to play in big stadiums, to exercise every day in training and have fun with my teammates. I’ve had a lot of fun, this is a great event.’

Over QR 40,000 in prize money will be distributed to the teams, with 1st place taking home QR 18,000, 2nd place winning QR 10,000 and 3rd place rewarded with QR 7,000. The best player wins QR 2,000, with the top goalkeeper taking home QR 1,500. A prize for best sportsmanship is to be awarded worth QR 1,500.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and the Qatar Stars League have jointly brought together 24 football teams to vie for the 2014 Workers’ Cup. The tournament aims to use the power of football to engage and create positive social change in Qatar.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Lucescu: "Working in Qatar was a good experience"

In an interview with Russian newspaper "Sport Den Za Dnem", Romanian coach Răzvan Lucescu, talked about his experience in Qatar, the 2022 World Cup and his father Mircea Lucescu, the legendary coach of Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk, in addition his thoughts about the idea of a united Ukrainian and Russian Football League.

Check the full interview published on January 30th 2014.  

The 44-year-old joined El Jaish club of Qatar in 2012 and led them to third place finish in only their second ever season in the top flight, in addition to a first appearance at the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League, but a string of poor results this season costed him his job, despite the fact that his club was still in contention for the title.

Here are the most important quotes from the interview,

About Doha and the Middle East

Did you enjoy working in the Middle East? Is it different than working in Europe?
"In my opinion, life is about gaining experience and working in Doha was a good experience for me. Of course, every country is different. Europe is Europe, it has another style of work, different mentality, culture, different education for sport. When coming to a new country ,you automatically face different aspects, such as connecting with education, with mentality, you need to come out with a different approach for work. It's all an interesting and good experience. Also Doha is an international hub for football. Coaches and players from all over the world come here; South America, Europe, Asia, I have learned a lot while working in Qatar".

What about the level of football in Qatar Stars League? Could you compare it with any other leagues in the world?
"Actually the level of football in Qatar Stars League surprised me. It is good, maybe the rhythm of the games is not very high, but the teams are starting to be very well organized. I could compare the level of teams here with those in United Arab Emirates, they also have very good players and coaches. Success in the Asian Champions League shows that the league competition is very balanced. I think the level of Qatar stars league is improving year after year."

Qatar will host the World Cup in 2022. Do you think the country is capabale of hosting this tournament?
"For me its too early to speak about this. But, the investments being made and the specialists who come to Qatar to work on the tournament from all over the world will surely help the country to do the best they can to host a great Mondial. We still have eight years to go before the World Cup, it is a lot of time. The project is fantastic, but we will see".

What is your opinion on the weather issue? Is it physically bearable to play football during summer?
"I think that the best solution is to play during winter or the end of autumn. Of course, the Organizing Committee is capable of building air-conditioned stadiums. For example, Al Sadd Stadium already operates under advanced air conditioning system. We have played there; it was very hot outside and cold inside, and It was mid May. But I think for the guests that will be visiting Qatar during the tournament, it is better to host the World Cup during winter."

About his future plans

According to some information on the internet, you are leaving Doha to Bucharest, where you will be coaching local team 'Dinamo'. Is it true?
"No, it's not true."

Mircea Lucescu, your father, is the head coach of Ukraine's most famous football club Shakhtar Donetsk. Would you be happy to coach an Ukrainian or a Russian football team?
"For me every possibility is open. I came here, in the Middle East to coach for an interesting experience, and I might go all over the world to get more experience. Everything is open for me. It's my job to coach teams all over the world."

But your father is approaching 70, is that true that he will retire soon?

"We did not talk about this. But in my opinion, he should continue. He must do that because he is happy doing his job. He has a lot of energy, enthusiasm, he goes to the training sessions with pleasure. When you have all of this you must carry on."

Have you heard about an idea to combine Russian and Ukraine championships into one league? What is your opinion on that?

"I have heard about this and it seems to be a very interesting idea. Ukrainian and Russian championships will be combined and fans all over the world could watch very interesting games, very special games. The value of the United league will increase a lot. I don’t know if it's easy or possible at all to happen. But in any case it could be fantastic."

This is a translation of the interview conducted by Doha-based journalist, Anna Lidster and published in Russian language newspaper

Anna Lidster is a bilingual journalist based in Doha. She contributes for a number of newspapers and broadcasting companies in Russia, UK and Qatar; few of which are Sports daily newspaper St Petersburg (Russia), British newspaper Daily Mail and Doha-based broadcasting company Al Jazeera English. 

Follow her on Twitter 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Aspire through the eyes of the stars

January was another busy month of football in Doha, with the Qatar national team winning their first ever WAFF title and the Qatar Star League making a return after a one month winter break, while Al Kass International Cup brought together the future stars of twelve well-known teams including Real Madrid, Manchester city and Paris Saint-Germain, and the tournament was won for the first time by Aspire International.  
Meanwhile, Aspire Zone was once again a hub for a number of world-famous football clubs who choose the state-of-the-art facilities of the Academy to be their base for intensive training and effective preparation for the second half of the season. 
French champions Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish giants Real Madrid were the first to arrive and they played out a thrilling friendly at Khalifa International Stadium that ended in a 1-0 victory for "Los Blancos". 
That was followed by the arrival of four more clubs for winter training camps, World and European champions Bayern Munich (Germany), Schalke 04 (Germany), Zenit St Petersburg (Russia) and Red Bull Salzburg (Austria). 
Football fans in Qatar had another opportunity of taking a close look at a number of global stars during daily training sessions and friendly games, including the likes of Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer the best goalkeeper in the world, and his teammate Franck Ribery, the 2014 FIFA Player of the Year nominee, in addition to one of the best strikers in Europe, Brazil's Hulk of Zenit St Petersburg.
Doha-based sports journalist Anna Lidster, covered the four training camps for Russian newspaper, with in-depth reports and more than 15 exclusive interviews.
Check out what the football elite said about Aspire Zone and Qatar during these interviews. 

Pep Guardiola

Bayern Munich coach

"The facilities in Doha are fantastic. We have everything that we could ever wish for. The best thing about Qatar in the winter is its weather; excellent conditions for the perfect preparations."
Roman Neustädter
Schalke 04 midfielder and German International
"It’s my second time in Doha and I would like to point out that it’s much cooler this year! the football pitches at Aspire are as always fantastic. The place is ideal for Schalke’s intensive training sessions."

Benedikt Höwedes

Schalke 04 and German International
‘Even though I didn’t practice with the main team as I was injured at that moment, I still managed to get the most from the training camp in Doha. The team stayed at the Torch hotel which has excellent gym and sauna. Doha was the perfect place for me to recover from the injury and get back to the main team."
Axel Witsel 
FC Zenit St Petersburg and Belgian International
"Training time at the Doha camp just flies. We had a few intensive workouts, played friendly games. I think we did a great job here. The team was a little bit surprised by the rain in Qatar. I’ve heard it’s rare. But overall, it was a great experience."

Luciano Spalletti 

Head coach of FC Zenit St Petersburg
"Training conditions in Doha are just excellent. Perhaps, this is the best that I could ever imagine. The only down thing is that we didn’t have enough umbrellas to hide from the sun. Otherwise, everything is perfect. We liked it a lot and already thinking of coming back with the team again in February."

Nicolas Lombaerts

FC Zenit St Petersburg captain and Belgian International
"Two training practices a day at Aspire fields allowed us to get back in shape after the winter break. Doha is a very convenient place for the team’s preparations. The hotel where we’ve been staying is just two minutes away from the pitches, that is the best possible quality. I have absolutely nothing to complain about."
Florian Klein
FC Red bull Salzburg defender and Austrian International
"it’s my first time in Doha. I have heard before that this place has good pitches and that we will have all the facilities needed in order to prepare for the next stage of the season, and it turned out to be true – Aspire is perfect, it has everything we need. Qatar is not that far from Austria too and the journey to Doha was not too tiring. Also, the weather is perfect, so I hope that the team will get the most of the training camp in Qatar."

2014 Aspire Football Dreams - Another Inspired Generation

The global football stars of tomorrow gathered under the spotlight at a prestigious gala dinner held in Doha on Tuesday as part of the Aspire 2014 Football Dreams project, the world's largest scouting programme.

Hand-picked from over 490,000 applicants across three continents, the elite group of 34 youngsters are amongst the most talented on the international stage.

All the protégés – aged 13 and 14 – received certificates and gifts including a signed football from Real Madrid legend Raul Gonzalez at Tuesday’s ceremony, presented by ambassadors and representatives of their country of origin.

Following the event, the young players resumed daily training sessions at the Aspire Zone in Doha, where a further rigorous selection process will see the group whittled down to the final 20.

This select band of players, to be revealed next week, will be offered the chance to train like professionals at Aspire Academy as part of the Aspire International squad.

Aspire Director General Ivan Bravo said, "Each year the Aspire Football Dreams project offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to thousands of young athletes across the world to fulfil their footballing potential.

"The 34 players currently with us in Doha have been chosen from more than 15 countries by our excellent global scouting network, and are some of the finest young footballing talents in the world today.

“It was a great pleasure to attend the gala dinner and I hope it gave those present an opportunity to celebrate their arrival in Doha and a potentially exciting future ahead.”

Now into its seventh edition, the Football Dreams project has enjoyed unprecedented success in recent times, vividly illustrated last week when the Aspire International team was crowned 2014 Al Kass International Cup champions, emerging victorious over some of the most famous Under-16 teams in the world including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

Meanwhile, over the past year, many of the existing Aspire International squad members have had the chance to represent their national teams at youth level, with players from Nigeria, Gambia and Senegal all receiving international team call-ups in 2013.

These include Nigerian international Funsho Bamgboye, who was awarded Most Valuable Player at the Al Kass International Cup. He said, "The Football Dreams project is an unrivalled opportunity for all young footballers around the world like myself.

"Having come through the selection process personally, I really enjoyed the gala dinner and the chance to meet some of the new generation of stars that will be training with us here at the Aspire academies.”

As part of the three-week ‘boot camp’ selection process that the young footballers are currently undergoing, the players will come up against local teams based in Qatar and also compete in a friendly match against an u15 FC Barcelona team.

Meanwhile vigorous daily training sessions and medical examinations will also ensure that only the players with the highest possible potential are accepted into the final squad.

Joseph Colomor, Aspire Football Dreams Director explained the selection process. "Our Football Dreams project is not just about the players that can win today,” he said. “At Aspire we want the players that are going to make it tomorrow.

"During this three week period, we are not just looking at their performance on day one - the coaches want to see real evidence of their progress by the end of the three weeks.

"This entire project is about giving hard-working athletes the opportunities they deserve and, by next week, we will have the chance to make some people’s dreams come true."

One of the youngsters hoping to make an impression is Djibril Camara, a 13-year-old who was scouted last year in Conakry, the capital city of Guinea.

Djibril said, "All of us in Doha are so excited to be here at the Aspire Zone, using these amazing facilities and receiving such fantastic training.

"Getting through to the final 20 would mean the world to me and my family and I really hope that I can show my talents and impress the Aspire Academy coaches here in Qatar.”

Monday, January 27, 2014

Local Organising Committee for 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ Activated

His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, yesterday issued Decree No.3 of 2014 changing the name of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee to the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy and Decree No. 4 of 2014 restructuring the Board of Directors of the Supreme Committee, which His Highness chairs.

“The formation of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy and the restructuring of the Board, as part of the Emiri Decree, aim to create the best conditions to host the world’s greatest sporting event, to catalyse development across all sectors in the State and to solidify the emphasis the government is placing on legacy for the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” said Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

Until now the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee has undertaken the operational preparations for the tournament, which are the mandate of the Local Organising Committee (LOC). The newly activated LOC will be working closely with FIFA to fulfil all obligations under the hosting agreement. With 2014 being a significant year for the delivery of stadium and infrastructure projects in Qatar, it is a natural juncture to separate the roles of delivery and legacy from the tournament operations and hosting experience for fans and players during the 2022 FIFA World Cup™.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy will focus on constructing proposed tournament venues and projects, coordinating with local stakeholders and ensuring a lasting legacy far beyond the FIFA World Cup™, in line with Qatar National Vision 2030. All existing contracts with the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee will be automatically transferred to the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

“This year is an important one for us as we begin to see five stadiums in different stages of construction in Qatar. The activation of the LOC is a further key milestone for us,” said Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. “As we focus on delivery and the legacy of venues, the LOC will be working closely with FIFA, as well as undertaking all event planning, operational planning and making sure that all commitments in relation to the hosting agreement are fulfilled.”

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Al Kass International Cup - FC Barcelona (2) Kashiwa Reysol (2)

Tournament newcomers Kashiwa Reysol made an instant impact at the Al Kass International Cup on Tuesday night, battling to a remarkable 2-2 draw against early favourites FC Barcelona.

Putting on an organised, athletic display for the full 90 minutes, the Japanese outfit often dominated their Spanish opposition and could have won this compelling contest had it not been for a spirited second half fightback from Barca.

Frustrating the Catalans with their athletic, close-pressing style of play, Reysol kept a lid on Barca’s famed brand of pass-and-move football that had served the Spanish side so well on Monday when they beat PSG 4-3.

Putting 11 men behind the ball in the opening 20 minutes, the Japanese youngsters chose to sit back and frustrate their opponents until they sensed an attacking opportunity. After 24 minutes they seized their chance. Having not managed a single shot up to this point, the Japanese suddenly charged forward, with Kyohei Otani marauding down the left wing before cutting inside and squaring the ball to Shunta Nakamura. The forward made space for himself before firing accurately past Barca keeper Sergi Herrera.

Suddenly, the impressive fitness and athleticism of the Japanese youngsters threatened to overpower the Catalans, who had given their all in a highly physical encounter with PSG just 24 hours earlier. Reysol began to play further up the field, inspired by captain Kaito Anzai whose subtle movements allowed him to pull the strings in midfield. His passing expertise was there for all to witness in the 44th minute when he crossed to provide for Reysol’s Kyohei Otani, who finished calmly to make the score 2-0.

As the second half got underway it appeared that Reysol were prepared to settle for what they had got. Supremely well organised and highly vocal, the Japanese players’ constant calls to one another rang out in the cool night air as FCB attempted to break their resolve with wave upon wave of intricate attacks, repelled by a determined defensive line.

In the 53rd minute the Spanish side hit the post after Javier Duran managed to connect with a cross from the right. It was beginning to look as though it would not be Barca’s night. However, on 64 minutes, a devastating three-minute blitz on Reysol’s goal left the Japanese reeling and Barca in the ascendancy, as their unrelenting pressure finally brought reward.

First, South Korean forward Seungwoo Lee eluded three challenges before scoring his second of the tournament with an expert strike across the keeper into the bottom right corner. With a renewed sense of confidence, Barca began to look like the side that had imperiously dismantled a powerful PSG side the previous day. Just a minute later, captain Carles Alena Castillo had a goal disallowed after being ruled fractionally offside. Within seconds, however, FCB had equalised through David Olmo Carajal, who latched on to a deft through ball from Castillo before rounding the despairing keeper and applying a cool finish.

Stung into action, Reysol came out fighting and a feisty period ensued, with tackles flying in from both sides. Barca’s substitute centre back was perhaps fortunate to avoid a red card on 70 minutes after mis-controlling a back pass and bringing down his advancing opponent. The referee opted to show yellow, and Reysol wasted their chance from the ensuing free kick on the edge of the area.

With ten minutes remaining caution set in, with both teams anxious to avoid a mistake that could gift victory to the opposition. However, there was still time for Barca to create a chance that almost won the game. A last-minute run from the superb Lee, an exact carbon copy of his goal-scoring move earlier in the game, put him one-on-one with keeper Taiga Someya. This time however, the South Korean’s shot was weak and easily saved. Lee instantly collapsed with cramp, illustrating the toll that this hugely competitive game had taken on the players.

With the game ending 2-2, Barcelona are now through to the knock-out stage of the tournament. The result means that Paris Saint-Germain will need to beat Reysol in Wednesday’s final Group A fixture if they are to progress.

Al Kass International Cup - Aspire Qatar (1) Chicago Fire (0)

A confident display from Aspire Qatar resulted in a narrow victory over US side Chicago Fire during Tuesday’s Group D group-stage game. Though the Americans fielded four forwards in an attacking line-up, the game was not the high-scoring affair that many had expected.
A match in which both sides defended well and looked to keep possession saw much of the play confined to the centre of the park. A strike in the 18th minute was the one real exception to this rule, when an attractive move from Aspire resulted in the game’s only goal. Breaking forward from midfield, the Qataris put together ten passes before finding the feet of centre forward Abdulrasheed Ibrahim, who went on to shoot confidently past American keeper Raymon Leon Jr.
For much of the first half both sides played some attractive pass-and-move football, with the teams looking to the wings for much of their creativity. Chicago Fire midfielder Malik Johnnson was an industrious presence along the left flank, constantly looking to beat the Aspire Qatar right back Khalifa Almanaseer with his electric pace.
And, in the final minutes of the first half, the 15-year-old came close to pulling his team level when he broke through and went one-on-one with the Aspire keeper. Fortunately for the Doha team, a last-minute sliding challenge from defender Khalid Mubarak Al-Naimi was enough to prevent the American from getting his shot away.
Kicking off the second half, Chicago Fire struggled to get back on level terms. The US side had made a 15-hour journey just days earlier, and Aspire seemed in no mood to go easy, with some tired legs beginning to show throughout The Fire’s young team.
With the Qataris becoming increasingly dominant, Khalid Mneer Maazeed was a constant threat as he sprayed the ball around midfield. On the 61st minute he came close to doubling his side’s lead when he skipped past four Chicago players before driving a shot from just outside the box, his strike sailing narrowly wide of the post.
The Americans had the next real chance eight minutes later, when a curling free kick from Liam Scott Fraser was met by forward Jacob Montes’ powerful header. The effort came so close to finding the net that Chicago Head Coach Lawrence Sunderland had risen to his feet to celebrate, before realising that his player’s great effort had hit the post.
Still, the Qataris kept searching for that elusive second goal, deploying three attacking substitutes in an attempt to boost their advantage. One of these, forward Hassan Palang, was looking lively as the game entered its final stages. He fired three long-range shots to test the Chicago keeper within the final ten minutes, including a 35-yard effort which forced an impressive save.
This was to be the game’s last real chance, however, and despite some promising moves from Chicago Fire, the Americans were unable to penetrate Aspire’s solid backline.
Though Abdulrasheed Ibrahim will receive plaudits for his well-taken goal, particular praise must also go to Aspire defender Khalid Al-Naimi, who delivered a performance of huge potential. The Doha team can now enjoy their win until Thursday, when they come up against tournament newcomers Manchester City.

Al Kass International Cup - Real Madrid (6) Porto (2)

Free-scoring Real Madrid handed a footballing lesson to opponents Porto with a classy 6-2 victory in Tuesday’s opening game of the Al Kass International Cup.

Just 24 hours after suffering a grueling defeat at the hands of Aspire International, Los Blancos took to the field knowing that a second successive loss would see them eliminated from the tournament. Yet they betrayed no signs of early nerves, displaying a quiet determination from the kick off.

Porto, making their debut in the competition, were quickly placed under pressure, with the ball seldom out of their half for the first few minutes as the Spaniards looked to press high up the pitch and impose themselves on the game.

Real attacker Nestor Gonzalez provided a real threat going forward from the get-go and made an early impact in the game’s sixth minute. Pouncing on a poor pass along the Porto back line, the 15-year-old made a clever interception on the edge of the box before getting his shot away to open the scoring, albeit via a lucky deflection off a Porto defender.

There was less fortune, however, for his attacking teammate Daniel Alcon, who managed to miss three clear goal-scoring opportunities in the space of five minutes following the opening goal. To compound Alcon’s misery, the number seven then had a strike disallowed in the game’s 21st minute after officials ruled his effort offside.

On a warm day at the Aspire Zone, the assembled crowd of Madrid supporters cheered their team on and, on the 23rd minute, their enthusiasm was again rewarded. The second goal owed much to the tenacity of midfielder Gregorio Teruel, who fended off challenges from at least five defenders at the edge of the Porto box before squaring to his teammate. Nestor Gonzales made no mistake, scoring his second goal of the game with a sweet shot directed into the bottom right corner of the net.

With Madrid now two ahead, Porto began to drift. Industrious midfield player Madiu Bari and striker Idrisa Sambu showed flashes of real talent but the Portuguese outfit failed to provide much threat going forward. And in the game’s 38th minute, it was no surprise to see Porto punished again. Firing Madrid’s third, and his second, goal of the game, Alvaro Alcantara volleyed home following a lobbed pass from teammate Nestor Gonzalez.

The half-time break did little to disturb Madrid’s momentum, who went further ahead within five minutes of the restart. Finding the ball inside the Porto penalty area, Oscar Rodriguez struck well to put the game beyond the Portuguese side. 

To their credit, the Portuguese side continued to compete strongly, and received a belated
 reward on 65 minutes when midfielder Miguel De Sousa fired home to make the score 4-1.

However, any hope of a fight back was short-lived as, three minutes later, a superb 25 yard free kick from Madrid’s Oscar Rodriguez arced into the top left corner, leaving Porto keeper Tiago Martins with no chance. Rodriguez’ strike was his first of the tournament, and he did not waste the opportunity to show off his impressive dance moves at the corner flag.

The engrossed spectators had already been treated to a six-goal fiesta, yet there were more to come. On the 70-minute mark it was Porto’s turn to add to their goal tally. Twisting and turning inside the Madrid penalty area, substitute Michael Da Silva broke past two defenders before firing a fine strike past goalkeeper and captain Luca Zidane.

Porto’s lively and confrontational approach had been apparent throughout the game, and it spilled over with six minutes remaining, when combative midfielder Bari was shown a straight red card after becoming embroiled in an ugly clash.

Madrid’s tempo had noticeably dropped in their previous game against Aspire International. Perhaps chastened by this experience, they continued to push forward. And, with seconds remaining, it was Nestor who claimed their sixth goal, his strike completing a superb piece of team play from the Spanish side.

Overall, it was a convincing display from Real Madrid who seemed to have quickly recovered their energy levels following Monday’s sapping defeat. FC Porto, meanwhile, must win their second game against the powerful Aspire International outfit if they are to retain a chance of claiming the Al Kass Cup.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Raúl enjoys his life in Qatar

Screenshot Russian Newspaper,
In an interview with Russian daily newspaper "Sports Daily" former ‘Real’ Madrid captain and Al Sadd star Raúl González talked about his life in Qatar, his plans and wishes for the year 2014 and on why he prefers a winter World Cup in 2022.

The Spaniard gave an exclusive interview to Doha-based journalist Anna Lidster (to follow her on twitter

Here are some of the best quotes from the interview with the legendary number 7:

About living in Qatar

“I enjoy my life in Qatar. I played for 19 years in Europe, 17 years with Real Madrid then two in Germany with Schalke 04, and now I am focusing more on the quality of life and on spending more time with my family. My family and I are enjoying our stay in here and at the same time, I continue to play football.”

“Al Saad is a big team in Qatar and the level of the league is improving step by step. In February, we will kick off our AFC Champions League campaign, and I think it will be a big motivation for me. I hope the team will play well.”

About the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the summer vs. winter issue

“In my opinion it’s better to play in winter, anytime between October and March, I think the weather in November will be perfect.”

“The weather is extremely hot in the months of May, June and July, actually I played in July during the preseason and the humidity was too high. I am sure the players and fans will have no problems inside the stadiums with the planned technology for the event, but in winter they will have the extra privilege of enjoying Qatar itself.”

About 2014? rumors on the web? Is he joining New York Cosmos or returning to Madrid as a coach? Will he leave Qatar?

“Really did they said all that, honestly, I did not even know. I do not have a specific plan for 2014, my contract with Al Sadd runs for another six months; I will have to decide after three or four months if I will continue to play football or not.”

“I am happy here in Qatar, and I actually have to stay for one more year as I signed a contract with Aspire Academy, maybe I will continue to play football, I do not know yet, now I will play with Al Sadd in the Champions League, if I felt good I will continue to play.”

About his role at Aspire Academy

“I work with young players at the ages between 12 and 18 years old, the most talented players in the country. With the excellent facilities they have here and the good coaches, it is great conditions for the development of these young players; in my time here I saw players progressing very fast, the level of football will rise step by step and I think Qatar will have a very good national team at the 2022 World Cup.”

About his career, his Real Madrid days, being a living legend, does he miss the old days?

“I feel very privileged for being able to be a footballer; it was my childhood’s dream and I was lucky to play so many years in Real Madrid and to win the UEFA Champions League with them, also my experience with a big and popular club like Schalke 04 in Germany was amazing. I am incredibly glad that I was able to make many people happy.”

Schalke fans surround the Spanish legend in Doha
“Al Sadd Stadium may be the last stadium I play in, I am a very happy man, I didn’t pick a lot of injuries, I enjoy every game and every training and that’s the most important thing, throughout my career I had a lot of support from everyone, a lot of attention, and even now after I moved to Qatar, so far away from Spain and Europe, a lot of people approach me to say thanks for the years you spent with Real Madrid and Schlake04, it makes me feel privileged."

About his hobbies outside the football field

"Of course, I have hobbies like everyone else, the main one is my family, my children. I have five of them, four boys and a girl and two of my boys play football at Aspire Academy. I also like cinema and walking."

About his family’s life in Doha

“The kids are very happy. There are British and American schools, and the schools here are very good. the weather is nice right now, so we can really enjoy our time”.

Anna Lidster is a bilingual journalist based in Doha. She contributes for a number of newspapers and broadcasting companies in Russia, UK and Qatar; few of which are Sports daily newspaper St Petersburg (Russia), British newspaper Daily Mail and Doha-based broadcasting company Al Jazeera English.

راؤول مستمتع بالحياة في قطر ولم يقرر بعد الاعتزال

صرح أسطورة كرة القدم الإسباني راؤول غونزاليز أنه يقضي أوقاتاً رائعة مع عائلته في قطر، مؤكداً أنه لم يقرر بعد إذا كان سيتعزل مع نهاية هذا الموسم أم لا.

لمتابعة المقابلة باللغة الروسية

جاءت تصريحات النجم الإسباني في مقابلة حصرية أجرتها الصحفية آنا ليدستر في العاصمة القطرية الدوحة لصالح جريدة "سبورتس ديلي" الروسية، تحدث خلالها راؤول أيضاً عن خططه وأمنياته للعام الجديد وأسباب تفضيله لإقامة مونديال قطر 2022 في فصل الشتاء.  
نستعرض معكم أهم النقاط التي تحدث عنها نجم نادي السد:
عن حياته في قطر
"انا مستمتع للغاية بالعيش في قطر، لقد لعبت كرة القدم في أوروبا لما يقارب تسعة عشر عاماً، 17 منهم مع ريال مدريد وعامين مع شالكه في ألمانيا، والآن أحاول التركيز على قضاء وقت أكثر مع عائلتي، أنا وعائلتي نقضي وقتاً ممتعاً هنا وفي الوقت نفسه امتلك فرصة لعب كرة القدم مع نادي كبير مثل نادي السد."
"السد من أكبر الأندية في قطر، ومستوى الدوري القطري في تطور مستمر، في شهر فبراير المقبل سنبدأ مشوارنا في دوري أبطال آسيا، وأعتقد أن ذلك سيمنحني دافعاً كبيراً، أتمنى أن يقدم الفريق مستوى جيداً في تلك البطولة."
عن مونديال قطر 2022، شتاءاً أم صيفاً؟
"أعتقد أنه من الأفضل أن يقام المونديال في فصل الشتاء، أي وقت في الفترة بين أكتوبر ومايو سيكون جيداً، في رأيي أن نوفمبر سيكون شهراً مثالياً لإقامة البطولة."
"الحرارة تكون مرتفعة جداً في شهور مايو ويونيو ويوليو، لقد لعبت في شهر يوليو مع الفريق خلال فترة الاعداد للموسم الجديد والرطوبة كانت مؤثرة جداً. أن على ثقة من أن اللاعبين والجمهور لن يواجهوا أي مشكلة مع التكنولوجيا الجديدة التي أعدتها قطر داخل الملاعب، ولكن إقامة البطولة في الشتاء ستسمح للجميع بالاستمتاع بمزايا أخرى عديد في دولة قطر".
عام 2014، والأقاويل العديدة على شبكة الانترنت؟ هل سيترك نادي السد؟ هل سينتقل فعلاً لنادي نيويورك كوزموس؟ أم سيعود إلى ريال مدريد مدرباً؟   
"غريب جداً!!! انها المرة الأولى التي اسمع فيها كل ذلك؟ لم أخطط بعد لعام 2014، عقدي مع السد مستمر لمدة ستة أشهر، وأعتقد أن علي أن أقرر في خلال ثلاثة أو أربعة أشهر إذا كنت سأستمر كلاعب كرة قدم أم أعتزل".
"أنا سعيد بالحياة هنا، وفي حقيقة الأمر أنا متربط مع أكاديمية آسباير بعقد ينتهي بنهاية العام الحالي، ربما استمر في لعب كرة القدم، لا أعلم، لم أقرر بعد، سأشارك مع نادي السد في دوري أبطال آسيا، وإذا شعرت أن كل شيء على ما يرام، سأستمر في لعب كرة القدم".
عن دوره في أكاديمية آسباير
أعمل مع اللاعبين الناشئين التي تتراوح أعمارهم بين 12 و18 عاماً، انهم أكثر اللاعبين موهبة في قطر، والأجواء في آسباير مثالية لتطوير هؤلاء اللاعبين، منشئات رياضية على أعلى مستوى وبعض أفضل مدربي العالم، خلال الوقت القصير الذي قضيته هنا شاهدت اللاعبين يتطورون بشكل سريع للغاية، مستوى كرة القدم في قطر سيرتفع خطوة بخطوة وأنا على ثقة من أن قطر ستشارك بمنتخب منافس خلال مونديال 2022."
عن مسيرته الكروية، وأيام مجده مع ريال مدريد، وكونه أسطورة حية في عالم كرة القدم؟
"أشعر بالكثير من الامتنان لأنني أصبحت لاعب كرة قدم، لقد كان حلم الطفولة بالنسبة لي، وكنت محظوظاً للغاية بأنني أصبحت لاعباً في ريال مدريد لهذه السنوات الطويلة، ونجحت في الفوز بدوري ابطال أوروبا، كما أن تواجدي مع نادي كبير مثل شالكه في ألمانيا، كان بمثابة تجربة رائعة، أشعر بالفخر لأنني نجحت في إسعاد الكثير من الناس خلال مسيرتي."
"ملعب نادي السد ربما يكون آخر ملاعب كرة قدم بالنسبة لي، أنا سعيد للغاية بتواجدي مع الفريق، لم أتعرض للكثير من الإصابات، وما زلت استمتع بكل مباراة أخوضها وكل حصة تدريبية، وهذا أهم شيء، خلال مسيرتي تلقيت الكثير من الدعم والاهتمام من أناس عديدة، وحتى عند قدومي إلى قطر على بعد آلاف الأميال من إسبانيا وأوروبا، ما زلت التقي العديد من الناس الذين يقولون لي شكراً على الأعوام التي قضيتها مع ريال مدريد، كل ذلك يشعرني بالامتنان".
عن هواياته خارج ملاعب كرة القدم
"بالطبع امتلك هوايات مثل أي أحد آخر، أهم هذه الهوايات هي عائلتي وأطفالي، رزقت بأربعة أبناء وبنت واحدة، واثنين من أبنائي يلعبان كرة القدم في أكاديمية آسباير، أيضاً أحب السينما والمشي."
عن حياة عائلته في قطر
"أبنائي في غاية السعادة، هناك مدارس على أعلى مستوى هنا، والطقس في الفترة الحالية أكثر من رائع، وبالتالي نقضي أوقاتاً مميزة".
آنا ليدستر صحفية مقيمة في الدوحة، نشرت العديد من أعمالها باللغتين الإنكليزية والروسية في عدد من وسائل الإعلام في روسيا وبريطانيا وقطر، من بينها صحيفة سبورتس ديلي الصادرة في مدينة سان بطرسبرغ الروسية وصحيفة "ديلي ميل" البريطانية، بالإضافة إلى قناة الجزيرة إنترناشيونال.