RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has finally unveiled the long-awaited Mahd Sports Academy, a project focusing on the discovery and development of local Saudi talent within and outside the nation.
With both individual and group sports to be included, both girls and boys from the ages of 6 to 12 will be able to take part in the brand new developmental system.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino congratulated the Kingdom on the opening of its new sporting project, a project that will positively affect football, seeing that it is Saudi Arabia’s most popular sport.
Jose Mourinho praised the Kingdom’s initiative to increase children’s practice hours with the game. Fabio Capello, Roberto Mancini and Edwin Van der Sar were amongst other key footballing figures that commended this project.
Mahd is expected to become one of the largest sporting academies in the world over the next decade, as the Kingdom aims to create a new golden generation that will allow the nation to compete on a continental and international level.
This comes after a series of failures that the Saudi Arabian National team faced in the last few years; losing 5-0 to Russia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and failing to win the 2019 Asian Cup.
Despite these setbacks, Saudi Arabia has been enjoying a “Golden Era,” with new regulations allowing for world-class sporting events to be hosted in the nation. As the Kingdom sets its eyes on Vision 2030, it has hosted the likes of the Italian Super Cup, Spanish Super Cup and the World Boxing Championship. The academy itself is a result of these events, as Saudi Arabia aims to compete by developing world-class local talent.
The academy will look for players in two ways: the first via elementary school, where more than 10,000 PE teachers alongside scouts will be training and looking for players respectively. The second stage involves the chosen ones joining the talent discovery centre, which the country aims to have 44 of by the end of 2025, including 1.7 million participants.
His Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Minister of Sports, commented on the academy: “This project is a dream step for Saudi Arabia, with the nation now focused on creating world-class Saudi talent that will make their country proud.”
Abdulla bin Faisal Hammad, the executive manager of Mahd Sports Academy, explained: “we have more than 1.7 million students in elementary school who engage in sports for one hour a week yet their talents are not recognised until they reach 14.”
He continued: “At this age it is harder to create a sporting champion, if we can connect with them earlier and provide them with better and more training, we will be able to create better players.”