World Cup the test of Qatar’s expensive bid to develop homegrown talent

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Most of Qatar’s World Cup side – the majority of whom are nationals and expatriates born, raised and naturalised in Qatar – were scouted as kids and came up through the ranks of the $1.3 billion Aspire Academy.

Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, brother of Qatar’s ruling emir, established Aspire in 2004 to develop homegrown players — six years before Qatar’s national team automatically qualified for the 2022 World Cup when it was named host country.

Many of the side – including star duo Akram Afif and top-scorer Almoez Ali – have been playing together under Spanish-born coach Felix Sanchez since 2014, when he led them as an Under-19 Qatari side to the AFC youth championship title.

In Qatar, Sanchez is credited with instilling a distinctly Spanish style of “one touch, small pass, good teamwork, possession-based play”, said Ahmed Hashim, editor of Qatar Football Live, a twitter channel.

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