Wonderful and useful experiences for the Omonoia youngsters and coaches at Aspire Academy, but it needs continuity
Dream experiences were experienced by the Omonoia Academy delegation that was at the Aspire Academy facilities in Qatar for preparation and friendly games (March 19-23, 2023). This mission is the result of the excellent cooperation created between the two Academies.
The Academy of the Qatari team was in Cyprus in January 2020 and competed against the U13, U14 and U15 teams of Omonia. The recent presence was something of a payback. It was supposed to happen earlier but was canceled due to the pandemic.
Football experts say Aspire's operation is very similar to Masia
Aspire Academy is no random Academy at all. On the other hand, it is not an exaggeration to claim that it is one of the top sports academies in the world. It was established by royal decree in 2004 and is independently funded by the government of Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (whose company Oryx Qatar Sports Investments has a majority stake in Paris Saint-Germain, where his right-hand man Nasser Al-Khelaifi ).
Its creation was a first serious attempt to find and develop the country's best young athletes, providing them with both facilities and coaches that could showcase their talent, as well as high-quality secondary education.
The Academy's facilities include, among others, 14 football fields, two hotels, a school, a medical center, an ergometric center and all the latest technology services related to ergometrics and fitness. It covers an area of 2.5 square kilometers and includes the 50,000-seat Khalifa International Stadium (which hosted the 2022 World Cup), the Olympic swimming center, indoor pitches for 13 different sports, and the world's largest indoor football stadium . Football pundits say Aspire's operation is very reminiscent of Masia.
The Omonia delegation, consisting of 48 footballers, born in the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 12 coaching staff, analysts, physiotherapists, had the privilege of experiencing all this miracle of know-how and facilities, knowing that for our data this thing is a dream illusory. All this scenery even reduces for some the specific facilities to the best in the world.
During their stay, the juniors of Omonia played 6 matches and won 4. The results are not so important as the fact that the matches were competitive and of higher intensity than those of our own leagues. And the little ones, according to the judgment of their coaches, responded (this was said on the official television channel of Omonia). Also – this is important – the Omonia teams that went to Qatar were better than the counterparts that played with the Qataris when they came to Cyprus in 2020.
The stay in Qatar was extremely useful for both the coaches and all the team's scientific staff. It is clear that the cooperation of the two Academies strengthens the professionalism and perspective of the Omonia Academy and yields beneficial results for both sides. Mainly for the Omonia side for reasons that everyone understands. It is to the credit of Omonia that it continues to work highly professionally in the infrastructure sector. This professionalism also includes building connections. It is precisely because of these connections that Omonia is able to move to such valuable places.
We have praised Omonia many times for the level of work done in the infrastructure departments. Not unfairly. It is the team that has put into practice what a few years ago was considered unthinkable for Cyprus. To make a team a championship and at the same time promote and highlight footballers for the first team!
Omonoia did this because it…worked. In 2018 a correct policy decision was made, (based on this decision at some point in the future the team roster would consist mainly of Academy players), which was implemented almost perfectly by all Academy staff (coaching and administrative) offering the children The best possible. The “best possible” also includes visits to model academies, such as the one in Qatar.
But all this is not a “complete package” if there is not a coach who has the ability, insight and courage to give opportunities to young people he considers talented. If there is no such person, all the work, no matter how good it is, does not pay off. This thing, “the completion of the package” was done in Omonia by Henning Berg. If it wasn't for him, it is not at all certain whether Loizos Loizou, Andronikos Kakoullis, Charalambos Charalambous, Marinos Tzionis (all of whom competed in Scotland yesterday) and Nikolas Panagiotou would have been in the national team yesterday.
Great thing. the visit to Qatar, something that from the facts only Omonia seems to be able to offer its sprouts, the work done by the coaches at the Academy is also great, but when there is no coach to believe in the little ones…the waters stagnate. And talents are lost.
Question. Have you seen any young players promoted to the Omonia first team since Henning Berg left?