I came to Saudi Arabia in 2016 for the first time as part of a Russian delegation, back then the media was not very favourable towards life in the KSA, and the perception from outside was too different from what I see for the last two years being in the country.
But when I came back to the country in 2017, as an MBA candidate at MBSC, I was looking to start something that could become a neutral ground for interaction, preferably could positively impact the society and be sustainable on the long term. But I knew that nothing could be done unless you truly understand the country and the traditions.
Nothing can serve this purpose better than sports!
First, let’s talk numbers − 74%* of the population in Saudi Arabia is interested in football, either by watching games, supporting a team, playing on the field or chasing a ball online. Meanwhile, only 29% of those people actually participate in a football (at least once a week).
How we could breach this gap? Engaging a wider population in an active lifestyle is one of the targets of the Quality of Life Program 2020 under Vision 2030. So how are we fulfilling Vision 2030 goals in KAEC? Let’s go through the main pillars of the program.
Deliver offering. We started with the core. In October 2017 in collaboration with Community Management team, we launched the soccer academy for children, this allowed us, up to date, to engage 34% of KAEC’s young population (boys and girls, age group 4-10 years old) in regular sports activity.
Develop venues. In May 2018, we conducted the first soccer tournament for children in KAEC, with free entry for all community residents. The positive feedback from the community, children and parents, along with the appropriateness of the venue, enabled us to secure the lead organiser role of the 1st Corporate Soccer Festival among all the multinational and local companies corporate soccer teams, that were interested in team-building activities and networking opportunities.
Drive participation. Corporate Soccer Festival is a family-oriented format, so while the men are playing the game, the ladies could be having coffee or a nice meal or even do other sport on sight, while children can play in the amusement area next to the field or go to children soccer classes. This format allows engaging more people into sport-related activities and promote a healthy lifestyle for all members of the family.
During the last summer break, I was working with the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation on conducting the alignment of the federal government requirements on the regional level. That was a sophisticated audit of the procedures in place, financial resources spent and the outcome received on implementing government program.
To sum all up, I can confirm that sport is one of the most rewarding fields to work in. Assuming everything else remains the same, the healthier the people the happier they are. Push yourself, be engaged in sports and live a happy life.