Qatar coach Félix Sánchez lauds youth in his team

The Spanish coach is in charge of the Qatar side with its sights firmly set on the World Cup 2022, but right now they are playing in Gulf Cup.

Qatar coach Félix Sánchez lauds youth in his team

Félix Sánchez arrived in Qatar with the Aspire Academy, with the job of coaching the country's talented youngsters. Having been a success with the junior sides, Félix is now in charge of the full team. And as the hosts of the World Cup, the tournament in Qatar in 2022 is the main goal.

What does a coach do in Qatar at Christmas?

Work. We've travelled to Kuwait to play in the Gulf Cup. We've been preparing for this competition for some time. We've been missing the odd player, but we're all here now. There's a lot of expectation in Qatar because of the rivalry with our neighbours generated by the Gulf Cup.

The Gulf Cup doesn't get much coverage, but there are teams that will play in the World Cup here, such as Suadi Arabia.

Yes. All the countries in the region are taking part. The rivalry is huge. It's a prestigious tournament. There's a good feeling about it in Qatar because the team won the previous edition, held in Saudi Arabia and in front of the Saudis. Even if we don't win, we'll be competitive.

How is the Qatar side right now?

We're a young side, the youngest side at the Gulf Cup, for example. We're bringing through players from the Under-23 side. The oldest player we've got right now is 27. Playing in these tournaments is a big motivation for them.

Qatari players are beginning to make the move to Europe, is that the key?

Of course. The Aspire Academy gives us the best working conditions, but it's important to be playing in the big leagues. We're all focused on the future, and the World Cup in Qatar is in five years time. In January 2019 we've got the Asian Cup. These regional tournaments are really important for our preparation.

You've moved up to the first team along with the talented footballers, who you coached in the junior ranks.

In 2014 we won the Under-19 Asia Cup, which qualified us for the Under-20 World Cup. We were also on the point of qualifying for the Olympics in Rio with the Under-23 side. It's been working well. Eight of those in Under-23 team are in the squad for the Gulf Cup.

Do the hopes of Qatar in 2022 lie with the players you've brought through.

Not just this generation, we're working with lots of players to come into the World Cup well prepared. We are conditioned by the small population. We start working with [youngsters born in ] each calendar year, but it isn't like Spain here, where if some players aren't making it in a year you pick others. Here there's aren't any more. You have to see how they progress.

There's also not much football culture or a top league...

In Qatar there's not much sporting tradition. Little by little that sports culture is being fomented. The Qatar league isn't great and that's why some of our players need to move to Europe to keep progressing. We've got players in Belgium and in Cultural in Spain. The aim is to keep progressing. 

And all supervised by Xavi, who is an assistant in your coaching staff

Xavi is a great help. He's a footballer 24 hours a day. He's with us whenever he can be, leaving games and training, because he's still with Al Sadd. For us its a privilege. Imagine what it means for these players having someone like Xavi giving them advice.