Whereas all eyes are on the extremely anticipated FIFA World Cup in Qatar starting in November, one other rising sport has gained consideration in Gulf nations and the world. Padel, also referred to as paddle tennis, is among the fastest-growing sports activities with over 18 million gamers worldwide. Invented in Mexico within the Nineteen Sixties, Padel is a spinoff of tennis that’s performed in doubles in a 10-by-20-meter courtroom, with a smaller ball than is utilized in tennis, utilizing a perforated carbon fiber racket. Not like tennis and extra like squash, in Padel gamers may also make the most of the again glass of their performs to return the ball to opponents.
The racket sport was first launched within the United Arab Emirates in 2013 by Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai and a younger determine recognized for his love of sports activities. Padel shortly unfold all through the Gulf nations, with common tournaments and a whole bunch of personal and public courts opening throughout the area within the final decade. The game has turn into particularly widespread amongst youthful crowds and notably because the onset of the coronavirus pandemic as individuals have sought easy bodily actions to interact in whereas sustaining social distancing.
Because the Worldwide Padel Federation’s Star event got here to an in depth Could 14 in Doha, AGSIW spoke to Mohammed Saadon Al Kuwari – co-founder of considered one of Qatar’s greatest Padel golf equipment, PADEL IN – to study extra about his position in rising Qatar’s Padel group and the rise of the game in Qatar and the Gulf. Mohammed can be a former skilled tennis participant, a beIN Sports activities presenter, and an official ambassador of the Supreme Committee for Supply and Legacy, organizer of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Mohammed Saadon Al Kuwari, founding father of Qatar’s PADEL IN (Credit score to PADEL IN)AGSIW: Inform us about your background in sports activities.
Mohammed: I performed tennis for 16 or 17 years. I began after I was 6 years previous, then I performed professionally. I represented Qatar on a number of nationwide groups, together with the beneath 12, beneath 14, beneath 18, and official staff. In 2001 or 2002, I turned professional. Round 2003, I joined the media area, the place I grew to become a reporter then a TV presenter. I’ve been working in media for the previous 17 years as a sports activities TV presenter for beIN Sports activities, which is the most important sports activities TV community right here within the area. I finished taking part in tennis professionally round 2006 due to my work and research.
I’ve a sports activities science bachelors from Qatar College. In 2010, I went to the UK and did my first masters in TV journalism at Goldsmiths, College of London. In 2016, I did my second masters, which was an government MBA at HEC Paris.
AGSIW: How did you first turn into interested by taking part in Padel?
Mohammed: In 2016, I attempted Padel for the primary time in Dubai. I used to be invited to a membership known as Nad Al Sheba in Dubai for a TV present, and as a part of the present, they invited me to strive Padel. After I began taking part in, there was a coach who, when he noticed me, was stunned. He requested if I had performed Padel earlier than and I mentioned, “No, I touched the Padel racket for the primary time in my life right here.” I informed him I used to be an ex-tennis participant and he mentioned, “Consider me, in case you begin taking part in Padel, you’ll be a superb participant.” I mentioned, “Thanks, however we now have no Padel courtroom in Qatar, so we’ll see.”
A 12 months later, in 2017, my brother determined to open the primary Padel courts in Qatar. He opened two out of doors courts within the parking zone of a sports activities membership, and I instantly began taking part in with him and commenced liking the game. From there, we began to construct the Padel group. Our courts grew to become full, and lots of people got here.
AGSIW: What do you assume drew individuals to play Padel while you first opened the courts?
Mohammed: There are numerous, many causes for individuals to start out taking part in Padel, primarily that it’s a simple sport. Anybody can play at any age, from 6 years previous to 60 or 70 years previous. I performed in Dallas with an individual who was 72 years previous. He was taking part in properly and was additionally an ex-tennis participant. You even have again glass behind you, so that you all the time have a second probability when the ball passes, not like in tennis. Additionally, the courtroom is sort of small. It’s 10 by 20 meters – so that you don’t waste a number of time operating behind the ball or to gather the ball like in tennis.
AGSIW: How has the PADEL IN membership grown as a enterprise?
Mohammed: In 2019, we determined to take it to the following degree. That’s once we created our new model: PADEL IN. It’s been working for the previous three years. We known as it PADEL IN: “in” as a result of it’s indoors. We believed that the enterprise mannequin can be higher if we operated indoors due to climate challenges, not solely in Qatar however worldwide. Our goal was to create a world model. We needed to have PADEL IN to be adopted by totally different nation or location names. For instance, there may be PADEL IN Aspire, then PADEL IN Kuwait. That’s the concept behind the title.
At present, we now have 4 golf equipment in Qatar. PADEL IN Aspire is the most important membership in Qatar, however it’s additionally the most important indoor facility in Asia and Africa with 13 courts. We now have three others right here: one in a shopping center, one within the desert in a spot known as Sealine, and one in Al Khor within the north of Qatar. We now have indoor golf equipment in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as properly. And we’re increasing – the concept is to have golf equipment within the area first then possibly exterior the area.
AGSIW: Was the native Padel group troublesome to construct?
Mohammed: No, really it was fairly simple. To begin with, we focused ex-tennis gamers. It was simple to persuade them to strive it, and the nice factor is that everybody likes Padel from the primary time they play it. The match lasts lengthy, and when you’ve got an extended rally in any racket sport, it’s all the time enjoyable. The opposite good factor is that I’ve superb publicity on social media. I’ve possibly 3 million followers amongst Twitter, Instagram, and Fb. This has given me plenty of publicity within the area. I feel that 1000’s of individuals know Padel via my social media platforms, so this additionally has helped. And by the point individuals hear about Padel, they need to strive it. Normally – this could be human nature – when you realize that a spot is full, you need to go. That is what occurred from the second or third week; our membership was totally booked. Me and my brothers used to go to the courts to play at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., earlier than the opening of the membership, as a result of the membership was full, and we didn’t need to take locations from others. Then, step by step, the group received larger and larger. Two or three months later, we began doing tournaments. And that’s it!
AGSIW: What sort of exterior assist has Padel acquired in Qatar?
Mohammed: We now have some sponsors, principally from the non-public sector. The federal government shouldn’t be taking part in a really large position within the publicity of the game. However there are some public initiatives. Many of the golf equipment which can be owned by the federal government beneath the umbrella of the Sports activities Ministry are constructing courts, which is nice; it helps the expansion of the game.
One in all our income streams, at PADEL IN, is constructing courts for others. We now have constructed over 100 courts within the nation, some in non-public palaces and for royal households. We now have additionally constructed some courts for five-star accommodations like Kempinski The Pearl and St. Regis. We consider that in constructing the courts, we’re additionally bringing extra individuals to the game and that, step by step, we’re going to have an even bigger market share. In constructing the courts, the revenue margin we’re making may be very restricted as a result of we need to assist the expansion of the game.
AGSIW: How has Padel grown regionally?
Mohammed: The UAE began again, I feel, in 2013. That’s once they opened the primary courts. Then Qatar began in 2017, however I feel that the variety of courts that Kuwaitis have opened within the final 12 months is nearly the identical variety of courts that had been in-built Qatar within the final 4 years. The expansion of Padel in Kuwait is simply unbelievable. It’s very quick – quicker than anyplace else. I don’t know the primary causes for that, however often Kuwaitis are very enthusiastic about sports activities and are very lively. They’re additionally very enterprise pushed and enterprise oriented. After they see any enterprise alternative, they simply fly – they simply soar and do it. That is good as a result of now everybody is aware of Padel in Kuwait.
The extent of Kuwaiti gamers is bettering; within the final two Gulf tournaments, they received the bronze medal. The one factor, I feel, is that the variety of courts and the way in which that persons are opening golf equipment is unhealthy. Golf equipment are opening subsequent to one another and are primarily outside. I might see how these courts, in a single or two years, might begin struggling as a result of the variety of courts being provided is possibly greater than the demand. Now, the demand is increased than the provision; that’s why persons are opening courts and may see the alternatives. However going ahead, I feel individuals will likely be extra involved concerning the high quality of the courts, and other people will likely be extra interested by taking part in indoors than outside.
On the competitors degree, Qatar has accomplished rather well. In November 2021, we competed within the qualifiers for the Padel World Cup right here in Qatar, with the UAE, Egypt, Senegal, Iran, and Japan. There was just one spot within the World Cup for Asia and Africa mixed – there are 16 in complete – and fortunately, we had been capable of qualify. We had been the primary and solely Arab nation to qualify for the Padel World Cup, which is an enormous achievement.
Right now we now have round 10 Qatari gamers within the worldwide rating. I’ve the best rating, at round 134th worldwide. That is additionally constructive for our enterprise as a result of it provides us credibility. When individuals come to our membership and see that the house owners are taking part in – and taking part in at a excessive degree – it exhibits that it is a place by individuals with the know-how of the game. They don’t seem to be simply doing this to get cash – it’s their ardour.
Padel match hosted by PADEL IN (Credit score to PADEL IN)AGSIW: What’s your favourite factor about Padel?
Mohammed: For me, Padel is sort of a dream. I’ve 10 years of expertise in meals and beverage, with regards to enterprise. I’ve 17 years within the media area, and round 16 or 17 years of tennis background. Padel introduced all of this collectively. So, the enterprise mentality and my background helped me to create a superb enterprise mannequin in Padel. My tennis background helped me to be a fairly good participant, which is one thing I actually need. This additionally led to representing Qatar once more, which is all the time a pleasure. The opposite good factor in Padel is that often gamers can play as much as 45 years previous at a excessive degree, and this is a bonus that you just can not discover in one other sport. So, for instance, within the rating of the highest 30 in considered one of our tournaments, there are three gamers above 40 years previous. For me, it is a blessing. Lastly, the social networking and the connection that I can see not solely between myself and other people however amongst individuals is very nice. Lots of people know one another from the Padel courts, and this group is rising. The nice factor is that the group right here may be very properly educated and it’s easy – anybody can communicate to anybody. The game is bringing individuals collectively, and I’m completely happy to be part of this.
Comply with Mohammed on Instagram and Twitter.