What We're Reading

Qatar's youth system at work

To understand why Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, you need to see how its reach extends halfway around the world to Guatemala, where its Aspire Academy, run by Spaniard Josep Colomer, has been prospecting for talent.

Brent Latham looks at how Qatar has developed connections in many parts of the world through its Football Dreams program that awards training opportunities for young players -- 23 out of more than 500,000 young teenagers who will try out in 2010. "Thanks to the Qatari royal family, we've been able to take on this humanitarian project," Colomer said. "This project is one that I've had inside me since I was at Barcelona. It's an honor to represent [the royal family], but the people won't really take notice until one of the kids who comes through this program joins Barcelona or Manchester United or Real Madrid, because the day will come when one of these kids comes out of nowhere and goes to Aspire to become the next Messi. And all of this is just to give kids an opportunity, regardless of their class or socioeconomic status."

The Football Dreams program is not without its critics. It's competition for clubs like those in Guatemala that hope to sign the same young players Aspire is targeting. Some believe the program is a front for drafting players into the Qatari national team. The program has been deeply entrenched in countries represented on the FIFA executive committee that selected Qatar over four other rivals, most notably the United States. Guatemalan Rafael Salguero is one of three Concacaf members of the FIFA executive committee and was, according to sources in Guatemalan soccer, low on the United States before the 2022 vote.

Read the whole story at ESPNsoccernet »

Next story loading loading..