Saudi Arabia unveils ambitious Mahd Sports Academy

With more than 20 sports to be offered to Saudi girls and boys, the academy is set to be one of the largest such projects worldwide

Saudi Arabia on Monday unveiled an ambitious project to nurture budding young sports talent in the kingdom.

The Mahd Sports Academy in Riyadh, with more than 20 sports disciplines offered to Saudi girls and boys from ages 6 to 14, is set to be one of the largest academy projects worldwide that will focus on discovering and developing the country’s sporting talent.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Sports, described the project as a "dream step".

Abdulla bin Faisal Hammad, executive manager of the academy, said one of the reasons behind Mahd was to identify more talent at a younger age.

He said there were more than 1.7 million children in elementary school who engage in sports for one hour a week yet their talents are not recognised until they reach 14.

“It is hard at this age to create sporting champions, and if we can connect with them earlier and provide them with better and more training, we will be able to create better players,” he said.

Gianni Infantino, president of Fifa, said he believed the project would positively affect football, seeing that it is Saudi Arabia’s most popular sport.

Other high-profile football figures such as Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello, Roberto Mancini and Edwin Van der Sar also praised the kingdom’s initiative to increase children’s practice hours with the game.

Mahd is set to become one of the largest sporting academies in the world over the next decade, as Saudi Arabia aims to create a new golden generation that will allow the nation to compete on a continental and international level.

Saudi Arabia is enjoying a golden era of sports, with new regulations allowing the hosting of world-class events such as the Italian Super Cup, Spanish Super Cup as well as boxing.

The academy itself is a result of these events, as Saudi Arabia aims to compete by developing world-class local talent.

It will have more than 10,000 PE teachers alongside scouts to unearth sporting talents from elementary schools throughout the country.

The second stage involves the chosen ones joining the talent discovery centre, which the country aims to have by the end of 2025.

Updated: July 29, 2020 11:41 AM


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