Qatar has come under a lot of criticism in Western media for it’s ‘poaching’ attitude towards young Africans aspiring to be professional footballers. But if you ask 20-year-old Diawandou Diagne Niang if Qatar’s initiative via the recognised Aspire Academy involves deceit, he would advocate otherwise.

In 2008, aged only 13, the Senegalese center back was one of final 24 members from the approximately 430,000 participants who were selected to train and study at the center’s prominent location in Doha, Qatar. This was all part of the Aspire Football Dreams – a “humanitarian project aimed at empowering the youth of the world by identifying football talents.”

More recently, Qatar Airways had announced its partnership with Aspire Academy to support this year’s African edition of the Aspire Football Dreams project. The project is a rare and interesting CSR football project, which currently exists in 14 developing countries on three continents, aimed at identifying the future talents of world football.

As part of the project, the Academy has begun scouting for talent from all across Africa. Once selected, finalists will be offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train in Barcelona and play a friendly game against FC Barcelona’s youth team.

Methodology behind it:

1. Registered individuals will participate in 25 minute 11 vs. 11 games, where the field coordinator and his team will select the best players to continue to the second phase.

2. In the second phase, players will participate in another round of 11 vs. 11 games, where international scouts to determine the top 50 players in their respective country scout them.

3. The top 50 then are hosted for half a week in their country’s respective capital to be assessed by Josep Colomer, Juanjo Rovira, and the rest of the Aspire team to determine the greatest 3 players.

4. The top 3 players of each country, represent their countries in the one month long grand final at the Aspire Academy in Qatar or Senegal, adhering to a strict training program from which the 20 best players will be selected to pursue their professional football dreams at the Aspire Academies.

To support this initiative, Qatar Airways welcomes fans from the African continent to support the Dreams Africa program by registering at Football Dreams Africa. Those registered will be entered into a draw where Qatar Airways will provide 20 lucky winners with air tickets to Barcelona in addition to a tour of FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium.

To conclude Diawandou’s story, the Senegalese had signed a three-year contract Barcelona’s B squad prior to start of the 2014 season.

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