17 Dec 2013
Days 6 & 7

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Day 6

An early breakfast and off to the Damien Hirst "Relics" exhibition. This was in Qatar for 4 months and is the largest collection of his works ever assembled.  There were some incredible pieces including a full sized Great White Shark in formaldehyde, a cow cut in two and a cow's severed head with live flies buzzing around it. The flies live for 2 weeks approx and it is supposed to symbolise the cycle of life.  Other themes included his "dot" paintings and a fascination with butterflies.  There was a large "medical" influence too with his pharmacy display and his anti-smoking message featuring a huge ashtray containing thousands of cigarette butts. The "piece de resistance" was of course the diamond encrusted skull "For the Love of God" which cost £15 million and was purchased by an  anonymous collector for £50 million. The exhibition was met with mixed reviews from Salopians ranging from "awesome" to "very curious" to "not for me" and "you can get them dot paintings in IKEA for a tenner!"

From here we then went to the Museum of Islamic Art where the main focus was on Haj - the pilgrim journey to Mecca.
There were historic Islamic artefacts from all over the world.

We then went to the "souk" which is the oldest part of Doha and is a labyrinth of narrow streets and market stalls. Our bartering skills were put to the test and Gus Hayward was delighted to come away with a Barcelona away kit for 20 Riyals (£4 approx) although we suspect it may be fake.

The semi finals were played in English conditions with a bitterly cold wind.  The first game was won 4-0 by Manchester
Grammar v Oldham Hulme and the second game was won by QUESS who beat Evolution Academy. Free time and supper in the Villagio Mall followed by Man City v Arsenal on TV and bed.

Day 7

A decent lie in and then off to visit the Mosque where we learned all about Islam and were shown how to pray. We also
received a personalised message of goodwill in Arabic calligraphy from one the World's leading calligraphers who has just completed copying out the Koran.

We then had a training session which was an 8 side match which saw the young and old guard see off the Upper 6th and
returned to the hotel for lunch and free time before returning to the Aspire Academy for the final and the tournament
closing ceremony.

Back to the hotel and an early night because we are up at 4.30am tomorrow for our 7.45am flight.

A very smooth flight home and a decent departure from Manchester Airport.

A fantastic tour to Qatar which the boys and staff will always remember. The facilities (hotel and training facilities), the food and the itinerary were simply amazing and we were made to feel welcome wherever we went. We got a real feel for what Qatar is all about and we were all very positive that they will host a fine World Cup in 2022.

A HUGE vote of thanks must go to Marwa and Rima, our organisers and reps, who were brilliant throughout and to the British Council and the Aspire Academy for looking after us so well.