Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority (GSA) is launching an ‘elite performance centre’ in Spain to help train and develop some of its most promising young footballers.
Plans for the initiative, which will be based at a bespoke training facility in Salou and run for four years, were announced by the GSA and are an attempt to enhance the Kingdom’s footballing prestige on a global scale.
The centre will welcome between 30 and 40 of Saudi Arabia’s most talented Under 20 players each year, laying the foundations for them to improve and then sign for prestigious European clubs.
His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, chairman of the GSA, said: “Football runs deep in the heart of Saudi Arabia and it is time for that passion to evolve and achieve greater heights.
“This four-year scholarship is about growing our young players, so they are immersed in a total football culture of the highest standard in terms of training, development, fitness, health and professionalism.
“It enables them to learn on the pitch by competing against players in Europe.”
The Saudi scholars at the FutbolSalou complex will play a minimum of 40 matches a year against a range of different clubs, and will benefit from premium training facilities, coaching and nutrition.
The centre will also invite talent scouts and agents in to select the country’s brightest young talent, hopefully earning scholars loan spells with some of Europe’s most prominent teams.
Players who do successfully graduate into clubs will be replaced by further promising young Saudis on a rolling basis, while it is hoped those who return to the Kingdom after the four years will be well-equipped to disseminate their skills and help improve the standard of the Saudi Pro League.
“This is a plan that lays the foundation for long term success in the world’s biggest footballing competitions, including the FIFA World Cup, the Olympics and the Asian Cup all the way through to 2030,” Prince Abdulaziz added.
“Under Vision 2030 we are committed to providing a pathway to elite performance and inspiring more people to participate and watch sports, and this scholarship is an exciting part of our strategy.”
The scheme, which is being backed by strategic partner and operator Almosafer, will immerse young players in European culture and is voluntary for Saudi clubs to participate in.
It will look to emulate the success had by similar initiatives in China and other ambitious footballing nations.
Abdullah Aldawood, CEO at SEERA Travel Group which includes Almosafer, chairman of the Saudi Entertainment Ventures and board member of other key country projects, said: “We are delighted to be working with the GSA on this exciting project.
“Saudi Arabia’s sporting history has a long and proud tradition of creating heroes and achievement, we are so excited that this could see the next generation of Saudi stars created.
“Success is all about the journey, and that is something we passionately support.”