Quassay Alfawaz, the new president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, has outlined big plans to develop football in the country.
Alfawaz was elected for a four year term last week. During this time he aims to double the number of football players in Saudi Arabia.
He also wants to lead his country from 70th to 40th in FIFA world rankings.
“We believe that our football has the right capabilities to reach a global stage,” he explained.
In June Saudi Arabia took part in their first World Cup since 2006.
Their campaign included playing in front of 78,000 spectators in the tournament’s opening match, and a 2-1 victory against Egypt. This was Saudi Arabia’s first win in a World Cup match in 24 years.
Football is a rapidly developing sport in Saudi Arabia, not least among women. Alongside Alfawaz’s election two women were appointed to the Saudi Arabian Football Federation board.
Adwa Al-Arifi and Reham Al-Onaizan are the first female board members in the Federation’s history.
Al-Arifi has a background in grassroots football in Saudi Arabia stretching back a decade.
“Football in Saudi Arabia has always unified us as families behind TV screens, and now inside stadiums, to support our clubs and national teams who made us happy and proud for years,” she said.
“For us, football is more than a sport, it’s a rich cultural activity that brings us all together.”
Women in Saudi Arabia have been able to attend football matches since January.
Alfawaz’s plans for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation have been inspired by and will support the Vision 2030 program of social, economic and technological development outlined by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
As well as improving Saudi Arabian football’s standing on the world stage, Alfawaz aims to increase the number of Saudi footballers playing in leagues around the globe.
He would also like to see the Saudi Arabian premier league, now named the MBS League after the Crown Prince, join the world’s top ten football leagues.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation is also bringing in the expertise of Roger Draper. Draper was chief executive of Sport England between 2003 and 2006, before moving on to roles in tennis and rugby administration.
“Foreign expertise is essential,” Alfawaz explained.
The first big test of this new era of Saudi Arabian football will come at the Asian Cup in January 2019. The country won the tournament in 1984, 1988 and 1996, and Alfawaz is optimistic about their prospects this time round.
“We will be preparing our team to achieve the best possible results,” he said.