Amr Zedan, Chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation weighs in on why sport is an essential social connector
Gems of Arabia
I had the pleasure of meeting Amr Zedan in Cambridge when I had the honor of dressing Prince William's polo team. Not only was Prince William wearing my design but it was equally as flattering and an honour to have Amr wear my design and see a Saudi playing polo on Prince William's team. Since Amr took up the sport of Polo, he is now the Patron of the Zedan Polo, a professional Polo team representing Saudi Arabia on the international polo circuit and who in recent years has won all of the regional prestigious tournaments. To see him play with tremendous passion reiterates the progress and new standards of excellence of which Saudi Arabia is heading towards. Vision 2030 acknowledges that opportunities for playing sports in Saudi Arabia have previously been limited and recognises the importance of sports as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Amr is the Chairman and CEO of the Zedan Group, a family business based in Al Khobar. He is also the Chairman of the newly established Saudi Polo Federation, a member of the Young President Organization (YPO), Young Arab Leaders (YAL) and board member of Mentor Arabia.
Tell us more about youth empowerment through sports programs. I really feel that sport is a critical element that must start early and be consistent.
Sport is a central component of the Saudi Vision 2030 blueprint for the future of the nation. Participation in sporting activities has a well-documented impact on both our individual health and the quality of life. The General Sports Authority has placed considerable emphasis on the creation of new sports federations to build interest in sport at a grass-roots level where we know that sport is a vehicle to empower, educate and fosters inclusion in the community, so yes, sports is very important to include at an early age.
How did your passion for polo start?
I have always loved sports in general and was fortunate enough to have tried many different activities growing up in the US and in Saudi. My passion for horses started at a young age as a rider but it wasn't until an older age that I discovered Polo. The first time I tried was in Dubai back in early 2000 and I was immediately sold. I continued to practice during visits to Dubai and London, and I eventually bought a few horses and eventually we formed the Zedan Polo team.
When will the Polo Federation and polo club open in Saudi and what are we to expect from it?
The Federation was recently formed so the new board of directors are working hard to establish an impactful strategy and delivery plan. We are currently in discussion with several master developers to explore suitable locations and offerings for new Polo clubs. We are keen on developing a state-of-the-art Equestrian center that can unite all equestrian sports under one roof. Saudi has a strong history in the Equestrian field and we hope that this foundation will help build Polo. But as these developments will take some time, we are simultaneously looking at activations to start drive the the awareness and interest in the sport, this includes training camps in existing facilities in for example Dubai and London and new events in Saudi.
This is all very exciting. What kind of progressive steps are you and the government planning for the Saudi youth team involvement?
We need to be realistic and understand that we don't have that many Polo players today, so youth is a key component for us moving forward. To start with, we have formed a partnership with the International Polo Federation that will allow us access to global best practices which we wanted from the start, especially on the educational side. We have also appointed an experienced Polo coach who will be working with us to develop Polo academies and youth development programmes.
What are the steps to be taken for someone who wants to learn how to play polo?
The first step is to sign up for a polo lesson. This can we done at Polo academy for example at Habtoor Polo Club or Desert Palm in Dubai. You can take an individual lesson or it is also a lot of fun to do with a group of friends. Whether a rider or not, you can try, but it will get to a point where you will need to get more serious about the skillset which includes both maneuvering the stick & ball, and of course the riding. To excel in Polo it does require a lot of practice, dedication and patience!
What kind of plans are in place for the future of polo in the Kingdom?
Big plans! Like anything in line with the 2030 Vision, our aim is to develop world class facilities and inspire the next generation athletes to have a positive impact on our nation. We also aim to develop and host world class events to attract high-profile professional Polo players and the dignitaries who play on the global Polo scene. We would for example love to see HRH Prince William and HRH Prince Harry play here one day!
What kind of advice do you have for the younger generation that want to pursue a career in sports?
Someone once said "Sports is like life with the volume turned up" which I agree with. Whether an athlete or professional working in the business, the opportunities are endless. I hope to see more opportunities for professional athletes achieving success in sports on an international level representing the Saudi flag but we also need more people getting active as part of the daily lifestyle. I am confident that the foundational work that the General Sports Authority has started in combination with what all the sport federations are doing will help create a healthy movement that will be a win for everyone.
What are your thoughts on mentorship programs for our youth in sports? Are there such programs? How would you advise we go about establishing them?
Sports is a social connector. And everyone in our society, not only in sports, needs role models, especially in Saudi Arabia where we have so much undiscovered talent in sport. With the Polo Federations our talent will be able to connect with the best in the field, for example we just had a delegation travel to Argentina, the home of Polo, who had the chance to meet and interact with some of the best in the field, both players but also leaders.
What is style to you?
Style to me is a combination of functional elegance with a personal touch for the specific occasion.
Less is more or more is more?
Definitely less is more.