On the sidelines of this month’s prestigious Al Kass International Cup featuring 12 of the best Under 17 teams from across the world, a less competitive tournament was taking place on the pitches of Aspire Academy. The Al Kass Crossbar Challenge saw three players from each team volunteering to test their skill at hitting the crossbar from the 18-yard line, with this exciting event allowing players from all the participating teams to have a kick-around together.
Aspire Qatar / Midfielder
So close, yet so far away. In his first two shots in the Crossbar Challenge, Ebrahim Helal Al-Ammash couldn’t hit the woodwork but was only whiskers away. In his third and final shot, Ammash smashed the ball onto the crossbar as his two teammates were able to get Aspire Qatar’s tally to 3 hits out of 9. But it was symbolic, because as a Qatari, Ammash is determined to play in the 2022 World Cup in his home country. He said: “Success is from God, and I hope to play in the 2022 World Cup.” Focused for the time being on the Al Kass International Cup (which was still in its group stage matches) he added: “The Al Kass Cup is amazing, next time we’ll win in the semifinals.” On playing against foreign teams from all over the world, Ammash added: “To play with them, learn from them, and benefit from the mistakes we make is important”.
Arsenal / Midfielder
Despite being only 15 years of age, Reiss Nelson is already playing with Arsenal’s under-17 team and was in Doha for the first time. He told us: “The facilities are really good and it’s been a great experience here so far.” On perhaps returning to Doha in 2022, Nelson said: “I play for the England national team now, so hopefully I’ll be there.”
Real Madrid / Attacking Midfielder
His idol is Karim Benzema, “because he’s nice, he’s very good, but mainly because he’s got a good attitude.” Siddiki also thought the toughest opponents in the tournament were Aspire, who he described as: “A very good team, physically but also with the right attitude.” The skillful midfielder, who scored a goal in Real Madrid’s win over Sao Paulo in the Al Kass International Cup group stage, is all about the right mentality.
He told www.sc.qa that it’s his first time in Qatar and that: “The experience has been good. It’s a very nice country,” but the dream of him coming back to Qatar in 2022 to play in the World Cup can only be accomplished with hard work and playing all the time.
“Maybe then it can be a reality,” he added.
Jose María Relucio
Atlético de Madrid / Midfielder
Atletico Madrid’s Jose María Relucio and his teammates were excited about coming to Qatar, but aware of the tough competition present at the Al Kass International Cup. Relucio said: “We were very happy to hear that we were going to Qatar, because it’s a very exciting and attractive country. When we saw what group we were in, we realised it would be difficult to move on to the next phase. Even though we also have a good level, we could have done more to win. Nonetheless, I’m very happy with my teammates and the entire team. We’ve played at a good level and we’re very sad because we couldn’t stay in the tournament, playing on these wonderful pitches and in these amazing facilities.”
Relucio, whose idols include FIFA World Cup™ winners Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta, as well as Atletico Madrid senior players Arda Turán and Koke, definitely wants to return to Qatar in seven years’ time. He said: “Playing in Qatar in 2022 would be a dream come true for me. I think when Qatar hosts the World Cup in 2022 it will be spectacular.”
AC Milan – Forward
After finishing third with AC Milan in last year’s edition of the tournament, Zakaria Hamadi said: “This is my second time in Qatar and it’s probably the greatest tournament we’ve played in so far, it’s difficult to have an experience like this with these pitches any place else.” Hamadi added that: “It’s a great opportunity to play with teams from different football cultures from all over the world, not only from Europe. It’s a fantastic tournament.”
With the FIFA World Cup™ also known for its power for bringing together cultures and people from different backgrounds, Hamadi said he can’t wait to make an appearance on the global stage.
“Every young boy and child dreams of playing in the World Cup. I’ve had that dream since I was a child. I am lucky to have two passports, Italy and Morocco. Insh’allah one of them will call me to participate in the tournament in 2022. I think 2022 will be fantastic because Doha and Qatar are beautiful with a lot of things to explore,” the exciting young striker told www.sc.qa.
River Plate / Midfielder
Diego Amarilla, an integral part of the talented River Plate side that most opponents feared during this year’s Al Kass Cup, told us that: “It was a very nice experience and it is all very beautiful. We all enjoyed what is happening to us very much.” An admirer of River Plate legends Pablo Aimar and Ariel Ortega, who participated in two and three FIFA World Cup™ editions with Argentina respectively, Amarilla said: “I will keep playing hard and preparing so I can participate in the tournament in 2022.”
With the youth national teams of Scotland and Chile (both age-group 2000), as well as the youth teams of Feyenoord Rotterdam (2001, 2002) and Buriram United (2001, 2002) as well as the Aspire teams taking part in a ‘Tri-Series’ tournament at Aspire Academy the week following the Al Kass International Cup, Qatar continues to host some of the most promising youth players from across the world. And just maybe some of them will be the stars of the future.