Qatar is promoting itself as a new sporting nation and the small peninsula adjoining Saudi Arabia hopes to become a sports hub for the Middle East and North Africa, a part of the world that has generally not invested heavily in sport or cultivated much of a sporting tradition.
Part of that investment in sporting infrastructure can be seen at Aspetar, the Gulf region’s first specialized Orthopedic and Sports Medicine hospital that has attracted Olympic athletes and leading footballers to its treatment rooms.
The 50-bed center says it is staffed by some of the world’s leading sports medicine practitioners and its website says it aims to deliver excellence in sports medicine, physiotherapy, sports science, orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation.
“We are the first sports medicine specialist hospital in treating athletes, therefore we have an integrated system, not just treatment, there are nutrition, rehabilitation and psychiatry for the athletes, to be fully prepared for the sport practiced, we have all the services to help the player practice their sport comfortably,” Aspetar’s Chief Executive, Ahmed al-Darweesh, told Reuters.
Aspatar was accredited as a center of excellence by FIFA in 2008 and has been used by footballers in the English Premier League, including Arsenal’s Abou Diaby, who had treatment for ankle and calf injuries in 2011, and former Liverpool player Milan Jovanovic, who had surgery for a knee cartilage in May 2012. Former Chelsea defender, Jose Bosingwa and Everton's Phil Neville, have also been treated at Aspetar.
Aspatar says it is unique in the range of treatments it offers in the same center.
“Aspetar is really a unique sport medicine hospital, in the world, because we have in the same place all the services that can support the athlete, first on the prevention point of view, second on their care, and also to improve their performance,” Dr. Hakim Chalbi, the Assistant Chief Officer and Executive Director of the National Sport Medicine Program, told Reuters Television.
French Olympic athletes Vanessa Boslak and Bouabdellah Tahri are amongst the track and field stars to have had treatment at Aspetar.
“We are here to improve, to achieve the performance and to support the performance of all the athletes from Qatar. We are also able to receive athletes from all the countries, international athletes,” Chalbi said.
The tiny oil and gas-rich Gulf state plans to bid for the 2024 Olympics, as well as a raft of other sporting events.
The country’s Olympic Committee chief Saoud bin Abdulrahman al-Thani was in London for the 2012 Olympics, studying venues for sustainability tips for future Qatari sports events.
Some may be skeptical about Qatar’s bold ambition - only 250,000 of Qatar’s population of 1.7 million are citizens, and they are not known for their sporting history - but the vision stretches far beyond the confines of Qatar’s borders, and Aspetar is part of that strategy.