French soccer Ligue 1 leaders, Paris Saint Germain (PSG), held an open training session in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Saturday (December 29) as the club trains during the season’s winter break.
PSG are owned by the Qatari fund QSI, which purchased the team in June 2011 and has since spent more than 250 million euros in transfer fees.
Fans attended the training session, where many of the clubs players and their head coach, Carlo Ancelotti, could be seen going through their paces, keeping fit during the break.
The players warmed up and played small-sided games at the Aspire Sports Academy soccer complex, near the Hamad Bin Khalifa stadium, which could be seen from the training ground stands.
The open session comes sharply on the heels of an announcement from Qatar, which said it will pour up to 200 million euros ($265 million) a year into PSG under an advertising contract designed to help the French club meet UEFA’s financial fair-play rules, according to French media.
The deal, already submitted to French football’s controlling body (DNCG), has been struck with the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and will run until 2016, daily Le Parisien said on Thursday (December 20).
PSG are playing in the Champions League for the first time since 2004 and, despite the team leading their domestic league, broadcasting rights for the French top flight are the lowest in the top European leagues, so the club were looking for a new revenue source.
Some have said that Qatar’s take-over of PSG is aimed at cementing the gas exporter’s links with the sport and help prepare it for hosting the 2022 World Cup, whose award was in controversy.
Qatar has gone to great lengths to establish itself in the European soccer circuit -- Spanish side Malaga, also in the Champions League, were bought by Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani in 2010 for 36 million euros, and followed Qatar’s record-breaking shirt sponsorship deal with European champions Barcelona.
The sport sector has long been a target for Gulf sovereign funds.
In 2008, an arm of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund bought English Premier League side Manchester City.
Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup have also been in the spotlight.
In October, Qatar’s World Cup bid ambassador Ronald de Boer said the tournament should be played in December or January rather than in the middle of the year, which is when tournaments have previously been held.
The finals were awarded to Qatar by world governing body FIFA in 2010 and are due to be held in the summer months when the temperature can reach more than 40 degrees Celsius.
In December and January the average is a far less intense 17 degrees.
PSG are due to train twice a day in local temperatures of 20 to 25°C.