Ever since we sold our first CardioWall Pro-X Elite to Manchester City FC, we had been expecting some interest from foreign shores, as the club is so international. But we hadn’t anticipated that it would come from the Middle East!
The Aspire Academy is a world-class sports training facility based on the outskirts of Doha, Qatar’s capital city. Based around 15 football pitches it also contains a mini indoor athletic stadium, an outdoor athletic area, aqua zone, indoor mini football and basketball arenas. Most impressively it also contains a fully featured school, so that the children, selected for their skills, can be educated to a very high degree whilst developing their sporting expertise.
It is part of the World Cup 2022 build up, and despite what people may feel about how it was rewarded, there is no doubt that in Qatar, they are using it as a lever to develop Doha into a modern city.
Not since I worked in China 15 years ago have I seen the amount of building and land development taking place. Whole streets have been cordoned off, closed down, demolished and rebuilt to a very high spec.
Goodness knows what the shop owners think of it, but speaking to my driver he said they were well compensated by the government with cash, a long rent free period and of course, a far upgraded facility. It’s a shame to see the old style leather, spice and trinket shops disappear, since of course without them Doha becomes like any other capital in the region.
The Souk still prospers, but it seems more of an anachronism without the other shops to support it.
But back to the Academy.
The facilities there are superb, beautiful bouncy grass pitches and the surrounding areas maintained to a high level. The gym we were to install in was at the centre of the pitches - a tent like structure but with glass walls and full time air conditioning. Artificial grass formed the floor with a running lane up the centre. Looking at the other kit there, this was not a gym for the faint hearted!
After spending the first day assembling the CardioWall Pro-X in situ, the second day was spent training and answering questions from the coaches - all positive and excited to have new kit to play with.
I was invited to watch a Saudi team who had been training there, play a match against a Qatar side. The game kicked off around 18.30 and I was curious to see how the players would make out under the heat. Of course they were well conditioned but even at that time, under the floodlights it was still 32˚C and pretty humid, which I can assure you, is hot enough!
The game was played to a high level, although I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise - and the players all put in a good shift from what I could see. But the World Cup? It’ll be very visually arresting, no doubt - but daytime games? – Hmmm...
The other thing is the dust. If there’s wind, there is a constant level of fine dust about. It must have some effect on the performance of finely tuned athletes and it layers over everything.
Part 2 of the Qatar install will happen in the next 2-3 months as we develop a special feature for the product - mums the word right now, but it’ll be pretty awesome, and the coaches are really looking forward to using it.
So, overall, a great, interesting and useful trip. An insight into how the Middle East is developing to take on the world’s second largest event and how they are using every technical edge to make their facilities the best in the World. I can’t wait to return.
by Simon Heap