Wayne Rooney of Manchester United shoots during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford. He said visualisation is a vital part of his preparation for a big game. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Wayne Rooney of Manchester United shoots during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford. He said visualisation is a vital part of his preparatiShow more

Mind games of business and sport the perfect match

LONDON // Few fans settling down to watch the English FA cup semi-final games tomorrow and Sunday will be wondering if football could help to defend a business against rivals, or tackle a region’s economic woes.

Indeed, turning on the TV to catch a match does not immediately sound like top priority for executives busy grappling with the impact of, say, the oil crash.

But business leaders wanting to hit their goals can learn a lot from sport, psychologists say.

Athletes’ techniques of visualising success, preparing and reviewing performances, and qualities of determination and self-confidence are said to translate especially well to the corporate environment.

One expert on the topic, who has advised businesses and government institutions in the UAE, says the sport and corporate worlds have much in common.

“They’re both pressurised, they’re both chaotic, they’re both fast-moving. But many of the principles that underpin performance are actually the same,” says John Neal, the director of the sports business programme at the United Kingdom’s Ashridge Executive Education, part of Hult International Business School.

Mr Neal has his own performance coaching business and has worked with clients as varied as the UK royal household, Weight Watchers and the British military – as well as teams participating in the Olympic Games and World Cup.

“Leadership is much the same whether you’re leading a group of business people, or if you’re leading a group of sports people,” he tells The National.

Businesses are increasing turning to sports psychology in search of techniques to improve performance, says another academic in the field.

Dr Martin Turner, a lecturer in sport and exercise psychology at Staffordshire University in the UK, is the co-author of the book What Business Can Learn from Sport Psychology.

One of the key lessons he cites is visualisation – something used by many of the world’s top sports stars.

The England and Manchester United football player Wayne Rooney, for example, in 2012 revealed that this technique forms a vital part of his preparation for a big game. “I go and ask the kit man what colour we’re wearing – if it’s red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks. Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualise myself scoring goals,” Rooney, the United captain, told ESPN at the time.

Dr Turner says this technique is similarly useful in the corporate world. Just like Rooney, executives can get a performance and confidence boost by visualising what they will say in a meeting and even seemingly trifling details like where they will be and what they will be wearing.

“They can visualise themselves dealing with the pressure of presenting in front of difficult people,” says Dr Turner. “It’s almost like a mental blueprint in the brain. And the brain starts to think, ‘I’ve done this before’, because you’ve visualised it so realistically.”

Dealing with everyday pressure is another area in which business people can learn from sports stars – although that skill is harder to develop.

That said, approaching your job with an athlete’s “performance mindset” can also help those in the corporate world, says the UK-based sports psychologist Dr Steve Bull, the author of The Game Plan and a consultant to many businesses and sports teams.

“Although you’re not wearing a tracksuit or kicking a ball around, from a mental perspective your approach is pretty similar to that of an elite athlete,” he says.

Developing a “strong mental game plan” and the sports-coaching concept of “plan, do, review” is extremely useful for business people looking to reach peak performance, says Dr Bull.

“One of the biggest mistakes busy business people make is that they lurch from one performance to the next,” he says. “Their calendars are absolutely jam-packed – and they literally go from one meeting to another: phone calls, business lunch, straight back into another meeting. And what they are not therefore able to do is employ the ‘plan, do, review’ performance cycle … Most business people don’t think about this – they just do the middle bit, which is the ‘do’.”

Dr Bull says there are also very practical ways in which business people can learn from sports stars: by being physically fit – what he called the “corporate athlete”.

Yet it is not a one-way street – and the sports world has plenty to learn from business, too.

Mr Neal says sports teams can benefit from the good governance, in-depth research, financial management and organisational structures seen in some businesses. He points to the 2011 film Moneyball, based on a true account of how an American baseball team used an analytical, statistics-based system to assemble a team of highly effective, but undervalued, players. Adopting a more business-like approach to the team selection brought real success in the leagues.

“If you combine the passion and emotion of sport, with the theory and rigour of businesses, you’ve got a pretty powerful model,” says Mr Neal.

But while there are many parallels between sports and business, the model has its shortcomings. For example, businesses should not evaluate success in the simple terms of “win, lose and draw” common in sport, says Mr Neal.

“Just because you didn’t win the contract, it may well have been that the person who did went in at a very low price, and won’t be able to deliver,” he says. “The team that won 4-0 may have had just better players, but could be badly led.”

So how can sports psychology help in a country such as the UAE, where many businesses are currently wary of the fallout from the oil-price crash? Mr Neal says UAE firms need to be agile – and adds he recently visited Abu Dhabi to advise an energy company, whom he did not name, on this very matter. “The key message we looked at was coaching. When you don’t have the ability to buy in skill, you have to develop it internally. So the analogy there is ‘make the most of the players you’ve got, don’t spend more money’,” says Mr Neal.

“The ability of the leaders to coach and motivate the team they have, to be the best that they can be, is the answer when the pressure is on.”



Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5


1) Kepa Arrizabalaga, Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea (£72m)

2) Alisson, Roma to Liverpool (£67m)

3) Ederson, Benfica to Manchester City (£35m)

4) Gianluigi Buffon, Parma to Juventus (£33m)

5) Angelo Peruzzi, Inter Milan to Lazio (£15.7m

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Gender equality in the workplace still 200 years away

It will take centuries to achieve gender parity in workplaces around the globe, according to a December report from the World Economic Forum.

The WEF study said there had been some improvements in wage equality in 2018 compared to 2017, when the global gender gap widened for the first time in a decade.

But it warned that these were offset by declining representation of women in politics, coupled with greater inequality in their access to health and education.

At current rates, the global gender gap across a range of areas will not close for another 108 years, while it is expected to take 202 years to close the workplace gap, WEF found.

The Geneva-based organisation's annual report tracked disparities between the sexes in 149 countries across four areas: education, health, economic opportunity and political empowerment.

After years of advances in education, health and political representation, women registered setbacks in all three areas this year, WEF said.

Only in the area of economic opportunity did the gender gap narrow somewhat, although there is not much to celebrate, with the global wage gap narrowing to nearly 51 per cent.

And the number of women in leadership roles has risen to 34 per cent globally, WEF said.

At the same time, the report showed there are now proportionately fewer women than men participating in the workforce, suggesting that automation is having a disproportionate impact on jobs traditionally performed by women.

And women are significantly under-represented in growing areas of employment that require science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, WEF said.

* Agence France Presse


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Four motivational quotes from Alicia's Dubai talk

“The only thing we need is to know that we have faith. Faith and hope in our own dreams. The belief that, when we keep going we’re going to find our way. That’s all we got.”

“Sometimes we try so hard to keep things inside. We try so hard to pretend it’s not really bothering us. In some ways, that hurts us more. You don’t realise how dishonest you are with yourself sometimes, but I realised that if I spoke it, I could let it go.”

“One good thing is to know you’re not the only one going through it. You’re not the only one trying to find your way, trying to find yourself, trying to find amazing energy, trying to find a light. Show all of yourself. Show every nuance. All of your magic. All of your colours. Be true to that. You can be unafraid.”

“It’s time to stop holding back. It’s time to do it on your terms. It’s time to shine in the most unbelievable way. It’s time to let go of negativity and find your tribe, find those people that lift you up, because everybody else is just in your way.”


BMW X7 xDrive 50i

Engine: 4.4-litre V8

Transmission: Eight-speed Steptronic transmission

Power: 462hp

Torque: 650Nm

Price: Dh600,000

Emergency phone numbers in the UAE

Estijaba – 8001717 –  number to call to request coronavirus testing

Ministry of Health and Prevention – 80011111

Dubai Health Authority – 800342 – The number to book a free video or voice consultation with a doctor or connect to a local health centre

Emirates airline – 600555555

Etihad Airways – 600555666

Ambulance – 998

Knowledge and Human Development Authority – 8005432 ext. 4 for Covid-19 queries

The Way It Was: My Life with Frank Sinatra by Eliot Weisman and Jennifer Valoppi
Hachette Books

How to join and use Abu Dhabi’s public libraries

• There are six libraries in Abu Dhabi emirate run by the Department of Culture and Tourism, including one in Al Ain and Al Dhafra.

• Libraries are free to visit and visitors can consult books, use online resources and study there. Most are open from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, closed on Fridays and have variable hours on Saturdays, except for Qasr Al Watan which is open from 10am to 8pm every day.

• In order to borrow books, visitors must join the service by providing a passport photograph, Emirates ID and a refundable deposit of Dh400. Members can borrow five books for three weeks, all of which are renewable up to two times online.

• If users do not wish to pay the fee, they can still use the library’s electronic resources for free by simply registering on the website. Once registered, a username and password is provided, allowing remote access.

• For more information visit the library network's website.


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Bridgerton season three - part one

Directors: Various

Starring: Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton, Jonathan Bailey

Rating: 3/5


Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Profile box

Founders: Michele Ferrario, Nino Ulsamer and Freddy Lim
Started: established in 2016 and launched in July 2017
Based: Singapore, with offices in the UAE, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand
Sector: FinTech, wealth management
Initial investment: $500,000 in seed round 1 in 2016; $2.2m in seed round 2 in 2017; $5m in series A round in 2018; $12m in series B round in 2019; $16m in series C round in 2020 and $25m in series D round in 2021
Current staff: more than 160 employees
Stage: series D 
Investors: EightRoads Ventures, Square Peg Capital, Sequoia Capital India

UAE v Gibraltar

What: International friendly

When: 7pm kick off

Where: Rugby Park, Dubai Sports City

Admission: Free

Online: The match will be broadcast live on Dubai Exiles’ Facebook page

UAE squad: Lucas Waddington (Dubai Exiles), Gio Fourie (Exiles), Craig Nutt (Abu Dhabi Harlequins), Phil Brady (Harlequins), Daniel Perry (Dubai Hurricanes), Esekaia Dranibota (Harlequins), Matt Mills (Exiles), Jaen Botes (Exiles), Kristian Stinson (Exiles), Murray Reason (Abu Dhabi Saracens), Dave Knight (Hurricanes), Ross Samson (Jebel Ali Dragons), DuRandt Gerber (Exiles), Saki Naisau (Dragons), Andrew Powell (Hurricanes), Emosi Vacanau (Harlequins), Niko Volavola (Dragons), Matt Richards (Dragons), Luke Stevenson (Harlequins), Josh Ives (Dubai Sports City Eagles), Sean Stevens (Saracens), Thinus Steyn (Exiles)

Pros and cons of BNPL


  • Easy to use and require less rigorous credit checks than traditional credit options
  • Offers the ability to spread the cost of purchases over time, often interest-free
  • Convenient and can be integrated directly into the checkout process, useful for online shopping
  • Helps facilitate cash flow planning when used wisely


  • The ease of making purchases can lead to overspending and accumulation of debt
  • Missing payments can result in hefty fees and, in some cases, high interest rates after an initial interest-free period
  • Failure to make payments can impact credit score negatively
  • Refunds can be complicated and delayed

Courtesy: Carol Glynn

Ain Dubai in numbers

126: The length in metres of the legs supporting the structure

1 football pitch: The length of each permanent spoke is longer than a professional soccer pitch

16 A380 Airbuses: The equivalent weight of the wheel rim.

9,000 tonnes: The amount of steel used to construct the project.

5 tonnes: The weight of each permanent spoke that is holding the wheel rim in place

192: The amount of cable wires used to create the wheel. They measure a distance of 2,4000km in total, the equivalent of the distance between Dubai and Cairo.