Doha, 7 October 2019. The first day of the 5th edition of the “Aspire Academy Global Summit” on Football Performance and Science attracted many popular people from the world of football. Former Argentinian star player Santiago Solari, who worked as coach at Real Madrid on youth and on senior level, was one of them. In the following interview he talks about his experience with sport science, the importance of youth development and his expectations for Qatar in 2022.
Mr. Solari, it’s a pleasure to have you here at the Aspire Academy Global Summit on Football Performance and Science. What kind of role has sport science played for you as a player and later as a coach?
Santiago Solari: Sport science has developed so much over the last 20 years. It was not the same when I started my career as a football player in 1995, and it was so different when I retired as player, because it is progressing every day. Facilities like this Football Performance Center here at Aspire Academy with all the resources built for players are a great example, but it’s not only the buildings and the technology that allow them to become better every day, but the human value and the people that have the capabilities to put these tools to good work, so they get the results as Qatar did at the last Asian Cup.
The successful transition of youth players to the first teams it’s one of the most challenging processes for football clubs. What are the most important qualities a young player needs to have in order to make it as a professional and how can a coach support this development?
Solari: Of course, what you asked in the first part of your question is the most important thing, because the future of professional football are the children that are now starting to play football. We always have to be aware of that and we can never lose our focus to develop them in the best way possible and Aspire Academy has been doing that. Real Madrid is another great example, where many players from the youth system made it to the club’s first team. Youth football is the essence of our sport and we should never lose touch with the joy of simply playing football.
In the opening speech, Aspire Academy Director General Ivan Bravo talked about the process of developing Qatari players and how they played together from a very early age on and step by step moved up from youth teams to Qatar’s first national team. What do you think about Qatar’s approach in the development of young players?
Solari: That it’s crucial and right now we are standing in the center of it all. It started with an idea to develop a place like this and a lot of people believed in this idea. Of course, it’s beautiful to see results and in this case you have seen results very soon. A few years might sound like it had been a long process, but it’s not in terms of football. It’s not only about doing something, but about doing it well at the same time.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is coming closer every day. What do you think we can expect of Qatar’s team at this major competition?
Solari: I expect to see another example of their development, for instance, the host team passing the group stage. I think the team has already made a big step by winning a trophy, which is very difficult and many big teams have failed to do it. I have not missed a World Cup since 1986 and I am expecting to see a great one in 2022.