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JEDDAH: The second World Football Summit Asia kicked off on Tuesday in Jeddah, bringing together key decision-makers from the global football industry, with in excess of 1,000 attendees representing more than 70 countries in the first event of its kind in the country.

The two-day summit is scheduled to coincide with the FIFA Club World Cup, which is being held in Jeddah from Dec. 12 to Dec. 22.

The summit, on its first day, featured notable speakers, sports figures and football industry professionals including Adwa Al-Arifi, Saudi Arabia’s assistant minister of sports affairs, Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and Datuk Seri Windsor Paul John, general-secretary at the Asian Football Confederation.

In her opening remarks, Adwa Al-Arifi highlighted the Kingdom’s growing influence as a global sports powerhouse.

Al-Arifi hailed Saudi Arabia’s transformation into a global sports hub, evident in its successful hosting of international sporting events and its ability to attract world-renowned stars across various disciplines.

Later, on the side of the opening day, Lamia Bahaian joined Hammad Albalawi, adviser to Saudi Arabia’s 2034 FIFA World Cup Bid and Michael Emenalo, Saudi Pro League director of football and head of the Player Acquisition Center of Excellence, for a panel discussion on “Saudi Arabia 2034: Football revolutionary moment in time.” The panel was moderated by Ali Khalid, Arab News’ sports editor.

During the discussion, Albalawi highlighted the role of sport in the Kingdom’s transformation under Vision 2030.

“Through strategic investments in infrastructure and grassroots programs, the country is also fostering a football ecosystem that promotes talent development and nurtures a deep passion for the game among its youth and women,” he said.

Lamia Bahaian, the first female vice president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, recounted the transformation of women’s football in Saudi Arabia over the past few years. “It is a new era and we are proud of it. Today, young girls across Saudi Arabia are paving the way to following their dream of representing their country.

“The future of women’s football is bright and we are committed to growing the game here.

Asked about how he and his team will add to the Saudi Professional League, Michael Emenalo said: “The Saudi Pro League has an incredible and vital opportunity to help fulfill the country’s football ambitions and inspire more of our people into football and sport.”

Speaking about his role as SPL chief, he said: “We are responsible for providing a centralized approach to transfers and helping to give all clubs the best possible expertise and governance to ensure a dynamic, young, yet sustainable future.

“We will do our best to help and advise all clubs in order to improve their status.” 

The summit brought together the main stakeholders in the industry in addition to international brands such as Aramco, Riyadh Air, Snapchat, 433, Radisson, institutions such as FIFA, SAFF, Saudi Pro League, Serie A, LALIGA, Bundesliga and FIFPRO, and clubs such as Al-Nassr, Chelsea, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid.