‘Let us be role models for our daughters and future generations’
Mead Al Emadi looks back on her FIFA World Cup™ journey with the SC
With only weeks to go until the big kick-off, employees at the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) are looking back on over a decade of hard work.
As part of a new series, we are featuring Qatari employees who have contributed to the delivery of the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Middle East and Arab world. Today, we speak to Mead Al Emadi, who, since 2012, has worked on a variety of projects at the SC, including community engagement and fan activations. Mead is currently the Director of the FIFA Fan Festival™, which will open to fans on 19 November.
Mead holds a degree in computer science from the American University and, in 2016, became the first Qatari to earn the prestigious FIFA Master qualification.
Here she shares the story of her career and her hopes for the future.
Tell us about your background, education and early career.
I am very proud to be from Al Wakrah and have studied there. I was actually chosen to be part of the first batch of pupils at Al Bayan Scientific School. Later I studied computer science at the American University in Sharjah – which I know is very different to what I do now! To tell you the truth, I struggled to find my passion in the early stages of my career. I worked in banks and real estate companies but then I joined beIN SPORTS. It was there I knew that sport is what I have always craved to do.
I have always followed sport but I never knew there were opportunities for me in this industry, especially considering my qualifications and being a woman. Back in 2006, not many women worked in the sports sector.
But in my first week with beIN, I woke up with excitement and energy. I hadn’t had this feeling before and spent five years working in TV rights.
What does football mean to you and which team do you support?
You might not guess this from looking at me but I’m known as one of the biggest Real Madrid fans in Qatar. I follow my team everywhere. In fact, before COVID, for eight or nine years, I went to every El Clásico and any finals Real were involved in.
When people meet me, they ask ‘are you sure you’re Mead, the lady arguing with people about football on Twitter?’ I really love football. The passion runs in my family. My cousins, uncles and brothers all love football. It makes us gather together. From a very early age, it was a central part of family life. I think this is how football culture is created.
In previous World Cups, I have supported Spain. But this time I have two teams to follow. Hopefully they can both go far in the tournament.
How did you feel when Qatar won the rights to host the World Cup?
Even today, when I watch the video, I still get goosebumps and I know everyone in Qatar feels the same. I remember turning around and seeing my mother crying from happiness and the kids excited. It made me want to hold on to that moment. I recall thinking that this is a moment of pride felt by everyone in Qatar. It truly brought everyone – expats, locals and all generations – together. It was validation that we could achieve anything. I was full of emotion. Every emotion you can think of. I felt all of them. It has stuck with me to this day. It motivates me to come to work and contribute to delivering an amazing event.
Did you ever believe you would get to work on a World Cup?
I never imagined it. Even as someone who is crazy about football, it was something beyond my imagination. I’m living the dream right now.
Everyone’s dream is to represent their country in a mega-event like this and for me, being passionate about sport, it was the perfect career path. I feel lucky to have been part of it from the start as I was actually working with beIN when Qatar won the bid on 2 December 2010.
Tell us about your early days with the SC.
I started with a smaller team working on local projects. I was lucky enough to work with the Community Engagement team – which involved consulting and celebrating milestones in the lead-up to the tournament. I also worked on establishing the volunteer programme. I feel fortunate that my work revolves around people – seeing their joy, their smiles, their pride. The human element is the best part of my job. It has been a beautiful exchange of culture, food and music – that’s what really inspires me.
What is your role heading in the tournament?
I’m overseeing event management at the FIFA Fan Festival – one of many entertainment destinations during the tournament. It will have a capacity of 40,000 with big screens for everyone to enjoy the matches. There will be performances and other activities. I’m sure fans will be amazed by what they see.
What are some accomplishments you are proud of?
Seeing the projects come to life is very rewarding. We are seeing the fruits of our labour. When I step out of Al Bidda and see the Corniche on my way home, I’m reminded how close we are to the finish line. I’m proud of how far we have come, especially with all the distractions along the way, whether it be criticism from the media or the pandemic.
What are some challenges you have encountered?
I feel my role is to create a spirit of unity and build excitement, while at the same time to change negative perceptions about the tournament. It’s been challenging at times – but as we have built experience and the wider team, our vision has come together. We can all collectively feel the spirit of the World Cup.
What will you cherish the most from this experience?
Being a part of the legacy of this tournament. It has been 10 years of hard work and dedication. Also, being able to share it with my daughter makes me really proud.
What advice would you give to young Qatari women about to embark on their careers?
Don’t worry if you are unable to find your passion at the start. We have endless opportunities and support from our great leadership in Qatar. We have strong education and healthcare systems, and incredible people to learn from. My advice would be to take a leap, take advantage of these resources and do something you’re really passionate about. Do not limit yourself. I encourage every Qatari to make use of our opportunities. Embrace the change in our country. Let us be role models for our daughters and future generations.