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Allazeez (Saudi League): ‘We want to be the main hub of world sport’

The new is advancing. The Saudi Pro League is also the protagonist of the sixth edition of the Social Football Summit 2023. Filippo Maria Ricci, journalist for Gazzetta dello Sport, interviewed Saad Allazeez, Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s top league. ‘Football in our country,’ Allazeez explained, ‘is a great passion. We have been following it for 50-60 years. We experience a great desire for transformation, which will be sublimated in the organisation of the World Cup 2034. In recent times we have started to develop clubs, to look for players’.

The growth of football, however, is only one step in the transformation of the entire Arab state. ‘Our country is very large,’ Allazeez acknowledged, ‘which is trying to transform itself economically and socially. There are 13 points in our programme, which aims to improve the quality of life. Saudi Arabia wants to become a major player on the world sports scene, and not only in football. We want to give the younger generation something to enjoy and be proud of. I think 80 per cent of Saudis have played football or watched a game. A lot of under-30s especially. This loyalisation started in 2016’.

The landing of many footballers in Arabia is one of the many steps planned for the future: ‘Trying to bring top players to Saudi Arabia is part of an integrated partnership of our league,’ explained the Saudi Pro League Chairman. ‘This is work done in cooperation with other leagues. The acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo is part of this programme. For us in general, the goal is to be able to host big international events like the World Cup. We will continue to work until we are recognised as a major sports hub’.

On the January market, however, comes a ‘reassurance’ for European clubs: ‘We do not expect major movements in the January market, certainly some teams will ask for a few players to reinforce themselves, but in general January is not the main session for the market’.

Saad Allazeez then told a curious anecdote: ‘As soon as I arrived in Italy, I took a taxi. The taxi driver told me that he knows our league, the players who play there, because he can watch the matches on La7. It’s a source of pride for us, for our movement’.