Aspire Football Dreams
The program of "Aspire Football Dreams" (AFD) is a fascinating and unique humanitarian project aimed at empowering the youth of the world by identifying football talents. It is a chance for thousands of 13-year-old boys in developing countries to demonstrate their skills in order to receive an educational scholarship together with a chance to fulfill their dream of reaching the heights of international football. For the selected few, AFD provides a holistic development including e.g. private school education, coaching, international friendly games, social, medical and sport scientific support, accommodation and food. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to pursue an international career in football.
The idea of starting the CSR initiative that is now known as "Aspire Football Dreams" was born in 2005, when Aspire Academy and the stakeholders in Qatar looked for a way to support developing countries in combination with helping local Aspire talents in their development. Given the philosophy and background of Aspire Academy, providing scholarships and giving then 14-year-old boys the opportunity to get a profound education combined with the best possible environment to be able to start a career as professional football player, seemed to be the best fit.
More than 3.5 Million Participants
The program was kicked off 2007 in Africa, involving seven countries and 430,000 young football players that were screened. Since then AFD kept growing: In 2008 an extension to three continents (Asia, Africa, Latin America) took place to support more regions and children and a satellite branch of Aspire Academy was installed in Senegal. Since the start in 2007 until 2014 more than 3.5 million kids have been screened in 17 countries with 18–20 scholarships awarded each year. So far the program has also involved over 6,000 volunteers, over 150,000 11vs11 games on more than 800 football grounds.
An Elaborate Selection Process
In the first stage of the selection process the registered boys participate in 25-minute-long 11 vs. 11 games. The best players go on to the second phase where they participate in another round of 11 vs. 11 games, where they are scouted by international scouts to determine the top 50 players in their respective country. The selected ones are hosted for half a week in the country's main city to be assessed by AFD-scouts and Aspire Academy experts to determine the best players. The top 2 to 4 players of each participating country and the best 3 goalkeepers head to Aspire Academy in Qatar for the final testing phase that takes three weeks and leaves the 18 - 20 best players with a scholarship so they can pursue on the way of becoming a "Champion in Sport" as well as a "Champion in Life".
The Perfect Bridge to Professional Football
Being part of the “Aspire Football Dreams” program offers the selected boys a holistic educational program at a private school as well as a comprehensive football program under the guidance of experienced international staff.
In order to provide a responsible transition from youth to elite senior football the most promising AFD-players after completing the AFD-program and turning 18 years of age are offered the chance of becoming a professional football player in our Aspire Zone Foundation managed Belgian 2nd division club KAS Eupen.
A proven success story, also for the Senegalese national team player Diawandou Diagne: After going through the AFD-program and playing two seasons in Eupen he was signed by FC Barcelona in 2014.
Not only clubs profit from the high quality training the boys receive from Aspire: So far more than 40 of the scholarship recipients have represented their national football associations (incl. e.g. Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Thailand, Paraguay and Mali) from U17 to A-national teams.
No players have been naturalized/represented Qatar as this is not the aim of the project.
Football as Humanitarian Network
But the work of "Aspire Football Dreams" in developing countries is not just about fulfilling the dreams of young players to get a break at a professional level and receiving a sound education. Aspire Academy also uses its big network built up through Aspire Football Dreams for the "Football Combating Malaria" project, another CSR-initiative that runs in co-operation with the Lionel Messi Foundation. This hopefully life-saving humanitarian project was launched in 2013 with FC Barcelona-star player Lionel Messi being present in Senegal, the starting point of the initiative. As for Aspire Academy, Lionel Messi’s involvement is voluntary and not profit-oriented and has the only goal to prevent Malaria from spreading any further.
Find more about the "Aspire Football Dreams" program on www.football-dreams.com