Saudi sports chief ‘stunned, awestruck’ by Kingdom’s take up of lockdown fitness initiative

1 / 2
SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal has been left “stunned” and “awestruck” by the Kingdom’s response to an online lockdown fitness initiative. (SPA/File Photo)
2 / 2
Short Url
Updated 24 June 2020

Saudi sports chief ‘stunned, awestruck’ by Kingdom’s take up of lockdown fitness initiative

  • Online home exercise campaign was launched to help maintain physical, mental wellness during COVID-19 health crisis

DUBAI: The president of a Saudi sports organization has been left “stunned” and “awestruck” by the Kingdom’s response to an online lockdown fitness initiative.

Tens of thousands of citizens have been taking part in the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) campaign — Baytak Nadeek (Your Home, Your Gym) — launched with the aim of helping to maintain the physical fitness, mental health, and wellness of residents confined to their homes due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

For three months, a series of online fitness classes and gaming initiatives have proved highly popular, particularly “Move to Game,” which allows individuals and teams to compete against each other by tallying up a total of steps taken at home each day through walking, running, or exercise groups.

SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, said: “At the SFA, we keep mentioning that our strength is in numbers, and that’s what just manifested itself with ‘Move to Game.’ We had just crossed this massive benchmark of 74,000 users and 2 billion steps, and we asked our players to invite their co-workers, friends, and family to join ‘Move to Game’ as a celebration.”

The virtual tournament, merging a love of gaming and physical fitness, was launched jointly by the SFA and the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS).

“I am stunned and extremely proud to say that together with the SAFEIS, we have just crossed 4 billion steps generated by 144,000 users,” Prince Khaled added.

“I’m awestruck by the power of our healthy and active community, and I watch their Instagram stories daily. I loved the Father’s Day walks with dad that our community members were posting; everyone out there – keep tagging us, we see you and we love it.”

The digital nature of the program, with steps being registered through smart phones and watches, proved a winner with an increasingly tech-savvy population, and one phase of the ‘Move to Game’ competition that greatly increased the activation’s social media visibility was specially developed for community sports groups (CSGs).

Through the contest, a prize pool of SR60,000 ($16,000) was awarded to nine winning teams from throughout the Kingdom, which clocked 29.6 million steps over five days.

Another SFA success story has been its first virtual Women’s Fitness Festival, an online event streamed via YouTube and on the festival’s dedicated website from June 11 to 13. The program addressed a range of topics through three different leadership panels and showcased a number of workouts and meal preparation sessions.

Festival participants were made up of women leaders across various health and wellness-related sectors, and included fitness professionals, athletes, nutritionists, therapists, and trainers.

The Women’s Fitness Festival was staged as part of the SFA’s focus on increasing health and wellness across all segments of Saudi society through education, events, activations, and public awareness campaigns.

Each of the festival’s three evenings began with a session led by Saudi fitness trainer and lifestyle coach Haya Sawan titled “Mum and Me,” that aimed to foster a generational love of physical activity and positive family fitness values.

International award-winning Egyptian athlete, Manal Rostom, staged a Nike training session giving tips on technique and encouraging viewers to be mindful with periodic breathing breaks.

Over the course of the three days, several additional physical activity seminars covering high-intensity interval training, dance, calisthenics, and circuit exercises were presented by Nelly Attar, Amal Baatia, Tracy Harmoush, and Najia Alfadl, with viewers encouraged to take part at home.

The workout sessions were designed to be accessible to all fitness levels and Nike provided all of the athletes with workout attire and footwear for the women-centric event.

Each evening, the festival closed with Hatoon Kadi, a Saudi opinion leader and performing artist, moderating a series of discussions that included successful female role models such as Lama Basri, Dr. Mezna Al-Marzooqi, Mona Shahab, Raha Moharrak, Reema Juffali, and several fitness trainers.

The panelists discussed the three primary topics of sport and fitness, mothers in sport, and breaking the barriers in female sports, while also sharing their thoughts on the challenges faced by women in achieving their goals.

Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

Updated 10 August 2020

Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

  • All games from the quarterfinals onwards will be played as one-off ties across four venues

PARIS: Manchester United, Inter Milan and Sevilla headline a quintet of former champions traveling to Germany for a remodeled eight-team straight knockout tournament that will crown the winner of a Europa League campaign heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

All games from the quarterfinals onwards in this season’s competition will be played behind closed doors as one-off ties across four venues — Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen — following a five-month interruption.

While a Champions League berth still awaits the victor of the final in Cologne on Aug. 21, much has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak that brought European football to a standstill in March.

“There are rules and regulations on the bubble that’s going to travel. We’ve got to stick together, stay together in and around the hotel and the training ground,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of the strict health protocols clubs must respect.

Players and staff will undergo virus testing before departing for Germany and again on the eve of a match once arriving, a process repeated for each subsequent game in the final tournament.

UEFA has advised teams to travel on charter flights and minimize contact with the general public, strongly recommending the use of exclusive hotels — to which players will largely be confined — in order to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Masks will not be required for substitutes and coaching staff but they must maintain social distancing when seated, with players instructed to limit contact as much as possible when warming up. Match balls will be disinfected before kickoff and at half-time.

United, the 2017 winners, face FC Copenhagen in Monday’s quarterfinal in Cologne while Serie A runners-up Inter take on Bayer Leverkusen in a clash of former UEFA Cup champions at Dusseldorf Arena.

England forward Jesse Lingard, who played in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the final three years ago, is confident the team can capture the title for a second time.

“We can’t wait to get there and play this game now. 100 per cent I want to win it again,” Lingard told MUTV.

“Lifting a trophy is a special feeling you can’t really explain and winning it before you take that confidence forward. We have got a mixture of youth and experience in the squad and for the young lads to win their first trophy, it will be perfect for them.”

Should United advance to the last four they would face either Sevilla — who have won the Europa League and its precursor, the UEFA Cup, a record five times — or Premier League rivals Wolves in Cologne
on Aug. 16.

Wolves are through to a first European quarterfinal since 1972 but were punished by UEFA in midweek after failing to comply with Financial Fair Play requirements. They take on Sevilla in Duisburg on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Inter beat Getafe 2-0 in a single-leg last-16 tie Wednesday in Gelsenkirchen, and Antonio Conte’s men harbor hopes of adding to the three UEFA Cups won in the 1990s.

“This is an important competition. It doesn’t matter where and under what conditions you’re playing, you should only be focused on the upcoming match,” midfielder Christian Eriksen told Inter TV.

“It’s certainly not as fun playing without fans, the atmosphere isn’t there. We’ll try to excite them while they’re watching on TV, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to embrace our supporters again soon.”

Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of the 2009 edition, play Swiss outfit Basel in the other quarterfinal in Gelsenkirchen.

This year’s Europa League final was initially due to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk in late May before the health crisis forced a change of plans.

Gdansk will host next year’s final instead.