Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy
A few days ago, many Saudis and particularly the youth were seen discussing one issue very seriously. It was not about the declining oil prices or the events taking place in the neighboring countries. Those discussions focused on the poor performance of our football team in the Asian Cup 2015 held in Australia. Sixteen teams lock horns to lift the prestigious trophy. During the past few decades, apparently our footballers have considered the Asian Cup a picnic. Other teams consider it their bad luck to be clubbed together in a group with the Saudi team. In the past, we had very talented players who acted in a professional manner on the field and outside. Why our national football team has not won any major tournament during the past couple of years? Sports in general mean much more than athletes and players displaying their talents in the field, it is also a way of life. It is economic, politics, patriotism and much more. It is not only football that is suffering in the Kingdom but all other sports are suffering. It is true that football is the most and probably the only popular game in the Kingdom, but other sports are also important and need more care and attention. In other words, there must be quick solutions to upgrade all sports in the Kingdom. Starting from elementary schools sports activities to professional sports. And we have to act now. Around 50 percent of the total Saudi population is young who like any other kids around the world watch sports and take their national teams achievements seriously and they want to see their national teams to advance to top positions. The current administrative body, the General Presidency of Youth Welfare does not have enough talents to elevate the performance of our athletes. There must be more participation from the public sector and most important is to establish a separate ministry with the name of Ministry of Youth and Sports. The number of the youths in Saudi Arabia is the highest in the world and as we know it, the young men and women have much more energy and this energy could be utilized in a more professional way. The poor performance of our national football team in all recent major tournaments indicates that it is time to establish a new ministry, that will enhance, develop and oversee the general performance for all sports clubs and sports activities at school and university levels. And there must be transparent methods and preset rules of who to pick for the administrative positions and the assignment should be according to professionalism and not assigned because of who they know. Also, it is very important to educate our athletes especially the professionals about the meanings of representing their country in an international event. Many of our players do not have the sense of responsibility, which is very important. The government has allocated all the necessary resources for the players and the staff and built state-of-the- art sports arena and sports complexes so it is important for all concerned to join hands to help improve the performance of our athletes. It is true that watching sports is fun but it would be even nicer if we can have fun and win an international championship. Written by Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim. Time To Pay Attention To Sports reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al‐Mulhim.