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'Sport is an integral part of Vision 2030' - How Saudi FA is using football to help the country stride forward!

08:24 EAT 20/09/2022
Ibrahim Alkassim; Saudi Arabian Football Federation

Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) General Secretary Ibrahim Alkassim is a man on a mission. As the country moves towards achieving their National Vision 2030, the Saudi FA know that football has a huge part to play as the country strides forward towards that.

Saudi Arabia are an important footballing nation in Asia, given that the national team have been performing consistently over the last 2-3 decades.

The three-time Asian champions have qualified for the 2022 World Cup and will be hoping to put up a competitive showing in Qatar.

Ibrahim Alkassim believes that emerging as a soft power in football will go a long way in helping Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 wherein the country aims to diversify the economy and break-free from its dependence on oil.

"Vision 2030 is a strategic blueprint that will place Saudi Arabia in front of the leading countries of the world. In Saudi Arabia, the economy mainly depends on oil but part of this 2030 transformation is to diversify the economy. The vision 2030 stands on three main pillars, the first one of them is the quality of life. A part of quality of life is sport," he told Goal.

He felt that sport can impact a country's economy in many ways, direct and indirect. He specifically spoke about how a sporting nation ends up spending less in other fields, which in trun boosts economy.

"When we chose the tag Vision 2030, sports was just sports. But today sports is a bigger part of the economy. If you talk about the total ecosystem in any culture and any country, sports not only directly impacts the economy but also indirectly impacts other fields.

"For example, the more sporting your culture is, the more its impact on other fields like say, healthcare. A sporting nation does not have to spend much on healthcare (which indirectly affects the economy in a positive way)."

These indirect impacts are key to the transformation of an economy apart from sports' obvious commercial impact.

"Sports is an important part of the economy. Not only does football add to the economy directly through the commercial part or marketing part, but also to the economy in an indirect way," he said.

And the importance of football in the country's Vision 2030 is evident in the fact that Saudi Arabia have bid for hosting rights of the 2027 Asian Cup and 2026 Women's Asian Cup.

Alkassim and his team have a key role to play as Saudi Arabia banks on football, and sports in general, to support its Vision 2030.