Lusail Sports Club Football Academy (LFA) is a community football academy with a pathway to professional levels. Their focus is on the development of the youth, where kids can not only enjoy playing football in a safe and friendly environment, the unique player programs are aiming to make them socially confident whilst learning the fundamentals to the wonderful sport of football.
Our team recently visited the LFA and spoke with Keith Young, the Founder, to talk about the academy and football journey: its origins and how it stands out from other football academies here in Qatar.
Let’s hear what he has to say:
“The expat community is a lot bigger than people think, certainly when I came out to Qatar. I was playing football at a good level myself throughout my career, and when I came to Qatar, I pretty much thought that there wouldn’t be much but there was a huge community that was playing football with leagues already in place. It didn’t take me long to find a team; to find a group of expat players that were passionate about playing football.
Once an opportunity to take over an amateur team came about I jumped at the chance. The players and staff already involved I knew we could take to a different level and we made it as best as we could with the experience, we now had to move them up a league.
Once we moved up an ambitious 5-year plan to win the Qatar amateur league was put in place and through some hard work and good fortune we would then see that 5-year plan come into fruition in 2019, when we actually won the league in the last game of the season.
You have to sincerely thank the people that have been part of it because all the way through those 5 years, I’ve met some really, really dedicated professional people who were working in Qatar. They weren’t here to play football, they were professionals in their respective fields, but football was their passion. Some of these people had been coaches or had already been playing at a high level before coming to Qatar and to meet them at the right time on the journey when I did was maybe written in the stars. For example Steven Gough, who was my assistant manager, was an ex-professional player in Ireland but working in Qatar and the perfect fit, Simon Pratt, Roy Gadsby, Kenny Gammie, Paul Horseman, Mikey Brady all became superb coaches that were working here in Doha outside of football yet put many many hours into the club for the love of football and maybe me as the gaffer as I use to take them out on the town to celebrate not only a win but even a defeat, there were a few!
As with any plan, there were significant changes along the way. We had to have a certain amount of Qatari footballers playing on the pitch at all times, which was a challenge. We had to start a football academy that was QFA Technically approved if we were serious about becoming a team that could go into the next division if promoted. That’s when I met Nawaf Al Mudhakha, who became my partner, my good friend and the president of LFA. Nawaf was not only fundamental in setting up the team as a business he understood the football process here in Qatar and made sure we guided ourselves respectfully with compliance through the approval process. With Nawaf came along Mohamed Al Motawa, another ex-player with a passion and vast knowledge for Qatar’s footballing and sporting establishments.
Where I would know every expat footballer in Qatar, I wouldn’t have known many Qatari players. Nawaf and Mohammed didn’t just know a lot of Qatari players they knew all the Qatari players, which made our team a lot stronger at the right time in the plan to push and move up to Qatar Football Division two.
When the academy was just about to start, We had to go find a coach and academy manager who could run and look after the academy full-time. That’s when I met and interviewed Ciaran Kelly, who is now the Technical football director. He was and still is perfect and instrumental for the club, he not only came in as a key influencer in what we were going to be all about as an academy, he also delivered UEFA-licensed practical sessions to the first team. So not only did we have Ciaran to help set up the operational side of the academy, Ciaran also helped us coach the first team which was a huge bonus and like most of the people that have been involved he is a friend outside the day to day. We then were fortunate to have Mohammed Al-Mesnad come to us through his good friend Mohamed Al Motawa, his business and sporting ethos ensured we move forward stronger with connections and ideas that we could never have found without Mohammed now our Executive Sporting Director.
When we started the academy in 2017, there were only 5 kids who came to the first session. We went from 5 to 10, to 30, to 50. With a location in one of the best areas of Qatar. We have Al Egla our professional football facility and not to forget Doha Sports Park where we started the academy and brought the very first group of footballers to Doha Golf Club, when we asked for a pitch luckily we had the great support of Gary McGlinchey and David Moreland who dropped a pitch within a week for us to start and now run one of the best sports parks for community sports in the area, they have been so supportive over the years. With the quality of the coaching staff and programs we moved forward and became more noticeable as an academy, delivering sessions for the kids that are progressive and fun with a professional element to the process which inevitably seen us grow. Right now we have about 500 kids in the academy and that is an accolade to the group involved.
Our vision is to invest in the youth of Qatar, at any nationality, at any age, we want to make sure that they’ve got a safe and holistic environment where they can play football and enjoy it first and foremost. And if the kids follow their dreams and are lucky enough, they could even make it to our professional levels in. Lusail Sports Club who are the aspiration for the pathway, we have an unbelievably talented young side with a superb organization and what Mohamed has done bringing in experienced managers, coaches, admin and player talent is fantastic. This is going to be a team to note in the future and just watch as it becomes one of the most exciting football clubs in Qatar.
I have to pinch myself sometimes when I walk through the academy and first team facilities, seeing something that started so small be so amazing. This story is not just about one person, this is about everyone that believed it could succeed. This is a special football club that will be here forever, which will continue making football memories for anyone who comes through the door.”
Registrations for the Lusail Football Academies are now open! New season starts September 12th!
Visit lfa.qa or contact 30677463 to sign up!
Follow their journey on their social medial channels:
Join us next time as we speak to another key member of LFA, can you guess who it will be? Stay tuned to find out!
Article By: Karl Belga