SAUDI ARABIA - Tourism
President, MAHD Academy
Abdullah Hammad is the president of Mahd Academy, the national sports academy in Saudi Arabia, a position he has been in since July of 2020. Abdullah is also a General Director of the Leaders development institute, which LDI prepares future leaders in the sports field for over 90 federations with educational coursed and programs. He received his bachelor’s degree from Nice in France with a degree in management, majoring in coaching 2008 from SKEMA Business School 2008. He took his Master’s degree in sports management in 2012 from Johan Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam, Holland. Lastly, Abdulla Hammad got his C, B, and A coaching license from the UEFA, which is considered the best level of license a coach can achieve from all the continents worldwide.
We have Vision 2030, and one of the KPIs is increasing mass participation in sports and having a greater representation of Saudi Arabia in international events. That percentage has increased, and we also need to find talents to represent the country. MAHD is a center of excellence and is meant to boost grassroots talent development, both boys and girls in the Kingdom, from all cities. P.E teachers identify them in the schools and competitions, and parents can also register their own children. If they have potential, we will provide the best teachers, coaches, and programs to train the children to represent the national team at international events. That was the reason behind creating the academy.
Finding talent is the first step to creating champions. Afterward, we find the P.E teachers and coaches, though, in a big country like Saudi, it is not easy because there are a huge number of cities and towns. There are more than 6 million students in elementary schools, which is the main target, starting at six years old. We collaborate with more than 20,000 P.E teachers in Saudi. We began as a pilot in Riyadh with 1,000 PE teachers. We have 25 sport ministry branches across Saudi Arabia with complete infrastructure and teams, and we train the talents there. We are building new and advanced facilities in Riyadh that will be completed in 2024.
We have more than 20 sports. In Phase I, we focus on football, handball, gymnastics, karate, taekwondo, and judo. We have two categories: from the ages of six to nine, children generally play all types of sports and improve fundamental movement, including group and individual sports. Later, they tend to focus more on one specific sport. For example, handball is played more in eastern Saudi; it is part of the culture in that region, and therefore we have many talented players from the east. Martial arts is done across the country; we even won a silver medal during the Tokyo Olympics.
There are no shortcuts in sports. Medals are a long journey, including thousands of hours of training and many wins and losses. The academy focuses on the generation that started in 2008 to win at the 2025-2026 Asian Cup and qualify for the next World Cup. We selected coaches who are the best in the world from all nationalities. This group of talents will be our first generation. We will train around 500,000 talents in our 25 different facilities in 25 different cities. We have more than 20 collaborations with other entities and organizations related to sports. We are creating partnerships in schools to have extra training in the sports they choose, so they have more time to train. We invite clubs worldwide to play here, in different sports. We are investing in more than 15,000 talent scouts around the country, either full-time or part-time.
Vision 2030 gives us the energy to work long hours every day. The country is motivated to move forward in every sector—tourism, culture, sports, and entertainment—and attain the goals laid out in the vision. In the last 40 years, we have been one of the top countries in Asia. We have won the Asian Cup more than three times since the 1980s. We are, therefore, motivated to enter into more international competitions and not only in Asia or the GCC. We want to have achievements, championships, and medals. When Saudi won the medal during the last Olympics, everyone was extremely engaged—the private sector, the government, and the population. Everyone is excited to win medals for the country, and this process is key to our national pride and international recognition.
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