Hussah Alshinaify is, along with one of her colleagues, the first Saudi student to take part in the FIFA/CIES International Programme in Sport Management organised by Cairo University over the past 15 years. Here, she talks about her experiences both in the classroom and as a woman actively involved in the management of football competitions in Saudi Arabia.
Along with your colleague Noura Al-Qahtani, who works in the Saudi Second Division League, you are the first female student from Saudi Arabia to attend the FIFA/CIES International Programme organised by Cairo University. What does that mean to you?
I am very proud and happy to be the first student along with Noura, and a sort of ‘pioneer’. I am sure, though, that many other women will follow us over the next few years.
One of my professional goals was to attend the FIFA/CIES International Programme at Cairo University. For a long time now, this Programme has enabled many Saudi sports and football officials to improve their management skills and thus make their work even more efficient. For example, several officials from the Saudi Football League and the Saudi Football Federation have already taken part in this programme in Egypt and they recommended it to me. This was particularly true of Abdelaziz Al-Hamidy, who is my Director at the League and a student from the 11th edition. He told me that this training would help me a lot in my work.
For me, the idea was to attend face-to-face classes in order to make the most of the teacher’s knowledge, as well as for the practical elements such as visits to clubs and sports facilities. I am delighted to have followed the programme in Egypt. Now I can see the difference. It was worth travelling four times from Riyadh to Cairo over the last six months. I feel that I have learnt a lot thanks to the content of the six modules and the experiences and knowledge shared by our lecturers. It has been really enriching. I am going to be able to apply all of that now, and especially what I have learnt about sports event management.
You have mentioned that the CU/FIFA/CIES International Programme has helped many Saudi sports officials in their management responsibilities. In what way?
This is mainly thanks to the skills of the instructors and the regular exchanges with the other students on the Programme. This has a positive impact on their know-how and performance when they return to Saudi Arabia.
At the beginning, everyone takes a particular interest in one or two modules, especially those that relate directly to their professional responsibilities. For example, the accountant looks forward to the finance module and the journalist to the communications module. Then you realise that all the courses provide something concrete and useful.
That was my experience. When I came to Egypt, I expected the sports event management module to be the most interesting because I work in this field at the Saudi League. However, by the end of the Programme, I realised that all the subjects covered could be of benefit to me. For example, knowing how to manage a budget, designing an effective marketing plan, understanding what communication means and being able to organise a press conference during a competition. All the modules are important because all the areas of sports management are closely linked. In other words, it was essential for me to study all the themes proposed by the different modules. Now I can understand the strengths and weaknesses of my environment. This will enable me to collaborate with my colleagues in other sectors and help them to improve their work too. The FIFA/CIES International Programme provides us with this global and concrete approach.
You are the first Saudi Arabian national to work in the Saudi Pro League, the Roshn Saudi League (RSL). Can you tell us how that came about?
I have the honour of being the first woman in the history of Saudi football to work for the RSL. Frankly, it is a source of pride. It happened by pure chance. I never imagined that I would one day be active in football. Although I have loved the sport since I was a child, like thousands of Saudi girls, I was not able to play it because women's football didn't exist in Saudi clubs at the time.
I studied engineering in the architecture section and worked as an interior design engineer for a Saudi firm. At the end of 2021, I learned that there was a job opportunity at the Saudi Football League. I jumped at the chance, applied and was accepted.
When I arrived at the League, I worked for the Executive Board and then the Operations Department. I am now active in the Sports Events Department. More specifically, I am involved in organising matches in the First Division Professional League. It is fantastic for me. I am always present at the stadium on match days to supervise various aspects of the competition.
A few years ago, Saudi women were not allowed in the stadiums during football matches. Nowadays, you help to organise all the matches played by men. What is the reaction of the fans?
It is going really well. I am really pleased with the reaction of men to my presence at the stadium. They encourage me and try to help me if necessary. In fact, the mentality in Saudi Arabia has changed a lot in this area over the last few years. Men want me to succeed in my job. The same goes for my male colleagues at the League.
Do you have a final word on the CU/FIFA/CIES International Programme?
As mentioned, another RSL employee, Noura Al-Qahtani, attended the programme with me. She works for the Second Division League. In addition, Abdullmohsen Aldoihi, Director of International Relations for the First Division League, is also part of the group that has just completed the 15th edition of the Programme in Egypt. This shows the important role that the Programme plays in training Saudi administrators to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030 defined by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the field of sport.
For example, it is preparing a bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup. It is also finalising the organisation of the AFC Asian Cup, which will be held in Saudi Arabia in 2027. To do this, we need qualified administrative staff. The Programme offers appropriate training. I now understand why my Director advised me to follow it. So, a big thank you to Cairo University, FIFA and CIES for giving me this excellent opportunity to learn and improve. When I get back to my country, I will be advising my colleagues to sign up for the next edition of the Programme!