Lina K. Almaeena

Member of Shura Council, Co-founder of Jeddah United Sports Co.

I grew up in a democratic and formative environment in which my parents encouraged me and my siblings to speak our minds, have discussions and ask questions.

I am the eldest of my three sisters and two brothers and we are a very close-knit family.

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From a young age, one of my fondest memories of growing up, and one that had a major impact on me, was our daily reading of the newspaper or at least knowing the headlines.

Both my parents worked in the media. My father was editor-in-chief of Arab News and my mother was one of the first female anchors on Saudi television in 1977. Our household was alive with discussions and conversations about world news and so much more.

I was very much influenced by my parents. I learned from a young age the overriding importance of being a productive citizen and giving back to my community, something that stayed with me into my adult life.

I learned that balance was key. No matter what your role is in life, it is what you make of it and how you balance it that counts; family, citizenship and self.

My siblings and I were privileged to be exposed to diverse cultures due to my father’s profession. We met many international figures and delegations, from Indian-South African writer and Muslim missionary Ahmed Deedat and boxer Muhammad Ali, to the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, when he was a cricket world champion and US broadcaster Barbara Walters in 1991 during the Gulf War.

I was amazed at how each one of them was their own ambassador, their culture, their respected profession and more. Through this exposure, it enriched my acceptance of all world cultures.

During my childhood I grew to love basketball. My uncle was my first basketball coach and all my cousins and siblings would play together on weekends. He placed basketball rims everywhere, over the garage, in the beach cabin, everywhere.

I also had PE while attending school. I was at Dar Al-Hanan in elementary, Al-Ferdous Model School for girls and graduated from the Children’s World School (CWS) where my school friends and I got to play basketball as a sports activity, which increased my love and proficiency in the game. 

I attended The University of New Mexico (UNM) in the US with my cousins and was part of the Arab Student Association and the Muslim Student Association. I remember meeting American-Nigerian basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon at a fundraising event and him being asked by a journalist how he managed to maintain his high-performance levels during fasting. Being an ambassador to his religion, he said that fasting during Ramadan was not simply abstaining from eating, it was a way of disciplining the body and mind.

After two-and-a-half years at UNM, I transferred to George Mason University in Virginia where I majored in communications and graduated with honors, before gaining a master’s degree in psychology from The American University in London in 2005.

Sport is a language in diplomacy and I am privileged to be able to mix my sporting passion with my role as a representative of the Shoura Council in a number of initiatives.

When I returned to Saudi Arabia, I got married and had my first child. For a time, I suffered from postpartum depression but encouraged by my husband, I started using a vacant basketball court in the backyard of a family member’s home where I played with my friends and teammates for three years. It was a great feeling to be back on the court again. I felt positive and a team was created.

In 2006, while a stay-at-home mom, my mother asked me, “so when are you going to get a job?” That was a major turning point in my life. I was able to transform my passion into a career and a business, and co-founded Jeddah United Sports Co. (JUSC).

Together with my husband, who quit his job a year later, it grew to become a family business and one of the leading sports companies in Saudi Arabia. 

Throughout my time as captain of the Jeddah United women’s basketball team, I was fortunate enough to be a speaker at many local and international conferences including the French Senate and the German Bundestag about women and sport. 

I was a columnist for Al-Madina newspaper for three years and used the power of the pen to raise issues in the community through the media.

In 2016, the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan was announced and I felt ownership of the vision with regard to the sports sector, as one of its objectives was to increase participation in sports and provide opportunity for all, not just one gender. Everything we had been promoting and working for since starting the team and academy was being crystallized. 

Seven months later, I was honored to be appointed to the Saudi Shoura Council and was proud to be a member in the highest consultative Council. I joined various committees throughout the past 3 years . I am currently on the social affairs, family and youth committee and am proud to say that several resolutions I personally proposed gained majority votes and became resolutions.

Sport is a language in diplomacy, especially soft diplomacy, and I am privileged to be able to mix my sporting passion with my role as a representative of the Shoura Council in a number of sports diplomacy initiatives.

The latest being the Diplomats & Riyadh United training and annual championships.

The different stages in life, my experiences and the influences I had growing up, have all been key to trying to keep the balance as a daughter, a granddaughter, a wife, and mother, with my career responsibilities and community role.

We must all strive to be more, to do more, and more now than ever before and always ask what we can do for our nation.

Follow Lina K. Almaeena
Twitter: @JeddahUnited 
Instagram: @jeddahunited
Facebook:
@Jeddah United

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