A recent UCFB trip to Doha saw a group of students visit some of the key venues and stadiums that will host the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Hannah Smith, BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing student at UCFB Wembley, was among the visiting party that toured the Khalifa International stadium (main image) and the ultra-modern Aspire Academy, meeting the England Women’s football team and manager Phil Neville in the process. We spoke to Hannah about her highlights from the pioneering trip …

Tell us about the recent trip to Qatar. How did it come about?

The trip came about through email and through my seminar tutor who said he was organising this trip to Doha. I thought the trip would be a great opportunity to expand my knowledge within the football industry and to hopefully experiences within my future career.

And what were the highlights of the trip for you?

There were multiple highlights of the trip but the Aspire Academy was incredible. The technology and the way they work with the players in order to try and develop them to get into the national team. Also, Aisha Fonte who was the Head of events and protocol was an inspiration. She decided to leave her job at FC Barcelona to go to Qatar and work at Aspire Academy (pictured below), her contract was only 2 years but she has ending up staying there for 12 years as she loves it so much. Aisha said ‘sometimes you have to take less money to be happier, all my family thought I was stupid’. Aisha was passionate about the work that they do at Aspire Academy.

Aspire Academy was founded in 2004 with the goal to scout and help develop Qatari athletes, whilst also providing them with secondary school education

As a BA (Hons) Football Business & Marketing student at UCFB, what are your thoughts on hosting the World Cup in Qatar? Why will it be different from previous tournaments?

Before my trip to Qatar I was unsure about the 2022 World Cup but now my perception has completely changed and I think that the Qatar 2022 World Cup will be a great success. The legacy that Qatar wants to leave after the tournament is admirable and the commitment that all the organisations have to make sure the World Cup is a success is inspiring.

We heard that the UCFB students bumped into the England Women’s team and manager Phil Neville! How was that meeting for you?

Hannah at the Khalifa International stadium

Meeting the England Women’s team and Phil Neville was an added extra to the amazing trip to Doha that no one expected. Phil Neville took the time out to come and talk to us and even pose for a photo.

How important is 2019 for women’s football considering the World Cup is taking place in France in the summer and The FA’s Gameplan for Growth is aiming to double women’s participation by 2020?

The world cup is always important for both men and women’s football and usually encourages participation due to the fact, it is such a big event. The World Cup in France will give a platform for young girls to see other women being successful within sports and inspire them to do the same.