STARS IN THEIR EYES

Qatar 2020 | SPORTS & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

QSL is looking forward not only to contributing to Qatar's hosting of the FIFA World Cup but also to its benefits post-2022.

Ahmed Khellil Abbassi
BIOGRAPHY

Ahmed Khellil Abbassi is the executive director of competitions and football development at the Qatar Stars League, designing and leading strategies to achieve the ambitious objectives of the organization. Prior to that, he was the director of national teams, winning the Gulf Cup 2014 and the Asian Cup 2019. In parallel to that, he is member of the AFC competitions committee and is the co-founder and chairman of Qatar Solar Energy. After finishing his bachelor's in Qatar and MBA in Manchester, Abbassi is currently a doctoral candidate in business administration with a research specialization in leadership, strategy, and innovation at the Ecole des Ponts Business School in Paris.

What are the main responsibilities of the QSL?
QSL was founded by the Qatar Football Association (QFA) in 2008 to become the domestic professional league with the highest international standards. Our purpose is to promote, develop, and support a professional football platform in order to bring all people together through a passion for game. In alignment with Qatar's National Vision 2030 and with the country's continuous efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle, passion, peace, discipline, and other values of sport, QSL delivers a professional league with over 450 professional players in 12 sports clubs. Our professional league is now called the QNB Stars League and was named Asia's second-best league in 2018 by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

How are you supporting and helping Qatari clubs to keep thriving?
We are one of the first pioneers in football innovation. We invested a lot in performance and technical analysis to support coaches to develop our players and teams in the best way possible. We support coaches with analysts to help them interpret data and really bring the best out of our players. We are the first league in Asia and the second in the world to implement live analysis. These tools give coaches the possibility to read and to make instant decisions to strengthen our players, to work on their weaknesses, and to prevent injuries. Live analysis is a new tool that allows the assistant coach to watch the match on his tablet 20 seconds delayed, while simultaneously receiving specific short videos from the analyst. If the analyst detects anything significant, they can send that video to the bench instantly while the match is running in order for the coach to make instant decisions. We are also investing in training analysis, which is the next step. Training analysis is especially used for tactical training. Another area where we are pioneers in football innovation video assistant referee (VAR), which we have implemented fully since before 2017.

How are you contributing to the creation of a carbon neutral championship?
One of our commitments is to run a carbon-neutral professional league and to promote environmental sustainability, making QSL the first carbon-neutral professional league in the world by the end of 2020. We want to spread awareness on the environmental situation, take action, and send a message to the world that is now is the time to do something. Through sport we can mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change and global warming, and all together we can make positive change and a difference. We will work on recycling, waste management, and water usage and try to increase our renewable energies.

What does the FIFA World Cup represent for your country and the QSL?
Exciting times are coming. Football is beautiful, but it is also exciting to have the possibility and opportunity to work for your country to host the most amazing World Cup in history for the first time in the Middle East. It is an honor, as well as a responsibility. We have no doubt we will deliver, and it is an absolute honor for each and every one of us to be part of these exciting times. We believe everyone in the country and the region, in or out of football, will be part of making this happen. QSL is a major driver of the country's professional football. We set the bar high in terms of professionalism and what is really important is the legacy left behind it. We believe that QSL will be one of the main winners thanks to the event, especially in the infrastructure of the stadiums and the gained expertise of human resources, which are major benefits for the league beyond 2022.