Saudi woman to run for sports club presidency

Time: 15 September 2020

Awatef Al-Sahoo (not in the picture) told Arab News that her nomination was inspired by her belief that the role of women is important in society. (AFP/File)
  • The move is a first for the sports scene in the Kingdom and in line with Vision 2030 objectives

JEDDAH, MAKKAH: From being a fan to co-chairing an all-male Saudi club, a love of football runs deep in Awatef Al-Sahoo, the first Saudi female to run for the presidency of a club.

The unexpected move is a first for the sports scene in the Kingdom. Al-Sahoo presented her candidacy for the presidency of Al-Qalaa FC in Al-Jouf, becoming the first Saudi woman to take the step.
She presented her candidacy papers for the presidency of the club’s board of directors last Thursday, amid competition with a list of names. Al-Sahoo wants to present a file, which focuses on establishing a women’s sports council to serve sports in Saudi Arabia, and she hopes to be accepted by the sporting community.
She told Arab News that her nomination was inspired by her belief that the role of women is important in society, especially for female athletes, as they create balance and integration, and can be examples of women reaching their full potential.
With her husband and family’s support for the nomination, her story began with her marriage to athlete Ahmed Al-Sahoo, who was a gateway to the world of sports for her. She said she was enthusiastic about becoming president of Al-Qalaa FC because of sports competitions.
“My home turned into a management center for the club and its affairs, with Al-Qalaa FC becoming a second home that is valued and supported with all their effort,” she said.
Al-Sahoo is unafraid of losing the elections in two weeks’ time, which shows her determination to fight, “by exercising my right to vote, establish a community sports channel capable of developing society in a cultural, social and civilized way, in accordance with the highest standards and modern technology that indicate success and excellence, is what I’m aiming for,” she said.

FASTFACTS

• Awatef Al-Sahoo presented her candidacy for the presidency of Al-Qalaa FC in Al-Jouf last week.

• She wants to establish a women’s sports council to serve sports in Saudi Arabia.

Last year, Kholoud Attar became one of the first women to join a football club. She is now head of Makkah’s Al-Wehda FC media center. She told Arab News that the Kingdom is ready to see what women have to offer in the field of sports.
“I always admire women who bypass gender issues and only focus on contributing their time to something new. I think it’s very brave and I’m sure she will do it and she’ll do a great job,” Attar said.
“I fully support her decision. If anything, working in the sports field and managing Al-Wehda FC, I realized that the Kingdom is ready for all the great work and opportunities women can give for this field.”
Al-Sahoo’s bold decision is by all means a great start for an integrated system, but also one that has gained the respect of women in the region.
Many people on social media have hailed her nomination as “brave and influential.”
Al-Sahoo said: “My success in the next elections is the success of all ambitious Saudi women who would like to show the world who they are, what they can give and who have fought in order to achieve these historical moments that will be positively registered in the march of Saudi women who have entered all domains courageously.”
Ahmed Al-Sahoo, her husband, whose presidency of Al-Qalaa FC recently ended, said her nomination is a wish she has been eagerly awaiting.
She is a leading figure who carries Al-Jouf citizens’ hopes and ambitions, and her loss in the elections will be a loss for all ambitious women from her generation, he added.
He said it was important to support and encourage women in their ambitions in the sports field and ensure their success.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi club Al-Hilal impresses with social media success

11/09/20

Al-Hilal after winning a record-equaling third Asian Champions League title in November last year in Saitama, Japan. (Files/AFP)

LONDON: When Al-Hilal became Asian champions for the third time last November, they joined Pohang Steelers of South Korea as the most successful teams in the continent’s history. When it comes to social media however, it is clear who is No. 1 in Asia.

With 9 million followers on Twitter, Al-Hilal are head and shoulders above the rest and have 150 times more followers than Pohang. It is not just about Asia; Al-Hilal rank alongside the biggest clubs in the world on the platform and surpass the likes of European giants Bayern Munich and Juventus.

Other leading teams in the Saudi Pro League are also far ahead of continental counterparts, with Al-Ittihad close to 4 million and Al-Nassr near 3 million. Some of Asia’s biggest clubs, such as Urawa Reds of Japan with their 400,000 followers, can only dream of such figures. Only Indonesian giants can come close, with Persija Jakarta at 2.9 million followers on Twitter and Persib Bandung at 3.3 million.

In 2019, the Saudi league was ranked as the third-highest league in the world in terms of fan interaction on social media. Tweets about the league reached 80 million from 40 million accounts, surpassing the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue One. Only the English Premier League and La Liga had higher rates of engagement.

How have Saudi clubs done it? That is a question that people are starting to ask around Asia. One reason is the sheer numbers on Twitter. “It has always been by far the most popular social media platform in Saudi Arabia,” said Wael Jabir, founder and CEO of Ahdaaf, a Dubai-based football digital content company. “In fact, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest percentages of population on the platform worldwide.”

Jabir noted that Al-Hilal have improved their quality of late but believes that these clubs gain a major advantage from the size of their fanbases. “I’d even argue that the top four Saudi clubs are not even the best in the league in terms of social media content quality, but their popularity is such that above average content gets massive engagement.”

FASTFACT

Al-Hilal and other Saudi teams are not going to rival the likes of Barcelona in terms of global profile, but they can raise their standing across the world.

That engagement leads to a higher quality social media presence, however, as fans and clubs interact.

“If we take a look on Al-Hilal’s social media platforms, we will see how most of their content is football-related,” Xavi Bove, sports marketing consultant, said. “Lineups, results, goals celebrations or post-game photographs are predominant in their feed. The club publishes original content regarding players’ birthdays or families.” The Spaniard believes that more behind-the-scenes or fan-generated content would improve the product further. “Such strategies have been very useful for clubs like FC Barcelona.”

Al-Hilal and other Saudi teams are not going to rival the likes of Barcelona in terms of global profile, but they can raise their standing across the world.

“Leveraging Saudi fan passion across the digital landscape together with the expansion to international markets through the signing of foreign players and more content beyond football can surely boost Saudi teams’ exposure in global markets,” Bove said. “A conscious exercise of branding and storytelling will become crucial to create more interest and trust both locally but especially globally, since football is shifting toward the industry of entertainment rather than sport. And, of course, success on the pitch is always important to attract fans and followers, as we tend to seek brands that genuinely inspire us.”

Bove added that signing big stars from countries such as Brazil helps increase awareness, but Kim Myung-won, a Seoul-based social media and communications expert, believes Asia should be a first port of call, especially as nations such as South Korea and Japan have a lot to learn from Saudi teams.

“Just follow the posts ahead of a game. A map of the world is posted with all the different times listed, which fans in different countries can watch,” said Myung-won. “It is simple but effective in showing that the club sees itself as an inclusive international brand. It is a call to action, too.”

Video content is also hugely important. Myung-won pointed to Al-Nassr’s welcome of South Korean international defender Kim Jin-su, who was signed at the end of August.

The video opened overlooking the megacity of Seoul with Jin-su packing his bags in a hotel room and telling fans of his new club how much the move meant to him.

“It was simply but beautifully done,” said Myung-won. “It showed a little of Jin-su and his homeland and immediately brought the player closer to fans. Signing a left-back from South Korea is not going to get fans too excited, but this video makes a difference.”

For too long, Myung-won says, the rest of Asia have either not known of the social media success of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr and other teams in Saudi Arabia, or have not cared. That should change.

“Clubs here in Korea and Japan think that they can learn only from Europe, but officials should be flying to Saudi Arabia,” said Myung-won.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Roaa Qattan, Asian Football Confederation-certified Saudi football coach

26/07/20

Roaa Qattan. (Supplied)

  • Qattan was one of only three female Saudi football coaches certified by the AFC

Roaa Qattan is an Asian Football Confederation-certified Saudi football coach. In February, the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) launched the Women’s Football League (WFL), the first of its kind in the Kingdom, to develop the sport for Saudi women and promote inclusivity.
Qattan was one of only three female Saudi football coaches certified by the AFC and selected to lead Arabic training sessions as part of the international UN Global Goals World Cup 2019 Virtual Clubhouse, which ran online until July 9.
Qattan said the Virtual Clubhouse offers a chance to those who wish to join the Green Team in its Arabic training sessions.
“We were selected and tasked with preparing content for the training sessions in a way that was easy to set up and using simple Arabic. I wouldn’t be able to succeed without the support of the Green Team members and SFA management, which is committed to achieving the General Sports Authority goals under Vision 2030,” she said.
Qattan completed her bachelor’s degree in accounting from King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) in 2005. In 2011, she received an open water diver’s license from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors in Jeddah. She holds an INSEP diploma of sport sciences and has a C-license from the Asian Football Confederation, which she earned in 2018.
She is the founder of the Jeddah Wave football team and has been coaching teams since its establishment in 2018. A year later, she joined Green Team, the official women’s football team representing Saudi Arabia for the Global Goals World Cup, and helped coach it.
She was named best physical education teacher in the Arab region at the Women Sport Conference in Cairo in 2019.

This article was first published in Arab News

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