Ricky Martin acclaims 5-day trip to the ASPIRE Academy

RICKY Martin says Norwich City’s youngsters will reap huge benefits from their recent trip to the ASPIRE Academy in Qatar.

32 Canaries Academy players, plus six members of staff, were based at the world-renowned facility for five days last week, and took part in four matches.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and all the lads have said it was a memory that they won’t forget,” said Academy Manager Martin when reflecting on the adventure.

“What a facility they have, it’s the best one I’ve been to – the way I’d describe it as the Disneyland of football. They had everything you wished for to develop players, had every facility and they looked after us really well.”

Two Norwich City teams of different age groups competed against sides from the ASPIRE Academy and then local outfits Al Jaish and Al Selia.

“The games were really competitive against ASPIRE academy. We took a 1996 team, and a 1998 team, and both teams lost 1-0. I felt the ’96 team found it a little bit more difficult, but I thought the ’98 team were really unlucky,” outlined Martin.

The 1996 age group then drew 2-2 with Al Jaish thanks to goals from Jamie Eaton-Collins and Michee Efete, while the 1998-born youngsters romped to a 9-1 victory over Al Selia.

It wasn’t all about the competitive action though, with players and staff being introduced to Spain legend and ASPIRE ambassador Raul and also paying a visit to the local market on the last night.

“He (Raul) was really humble and he’s just a top professional player,” added Martin.

“He understood he had a role to play, so he had photos with every player and he spoke to the coaching staff. He’s a really good ambassador for ASPIRE.

“We made sure they sampled the local culture as well. We took them to a local market once the games had finished on our last evening, and they were shopping and bartering – some of the lads did some very good bartering!

“We know it’s about developing individuals and not teams, and we want to give those individuals as many different experiences as possible and this was certainly one way of doing that.”

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