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Global Business Opportunities contestants Abdulrahman bin Thalith and Rashid Ahmed al Jumairi.
Global Business Opportunities contestants Abdulrahman bin Thalith and Rashid Ahmed al Jumairi.

Emirati duo score with indoor football plan

Brazilian twist on sport perfect for the country's hot summers wins pair a place in final round of a global business competition.

DUBAI // Two Emiratis with an innovative plan for a Brazilian-themed indoor football centre have made it through to the final of a worldwide competition for entrepreneurs. Rashid Ahmed al Jumairi and Abdulrahman bin Thalith, both 25, are the only Emiratis to reach the final of the Global Business Opportunities contest.

Their proposal was selected by a panel of judges from the Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Development. While the indoor football idea was by no means unique, the plan for Brazilian-themed decor, food and music set it apart from the crowd, said the judges. The pair will compete in October against a team from Jordan for the US$20,000 (Dh73,000) prize, and a place on the SME Development business incubation programme.

"When we entered this competition we had no idea we could win," said Mr al Jumairi. "We have worked very hard, day and night, to get this far, and we will keep working. We know this business will work." The men were part of a group of eight Emiratis, aged between 21 and 27, to take part in a UAE-based Apprentice-style competition that aimed to encourage Arabs to enter the business world. In March, the two spent nearly three weeks in Brazil, honing their business skills alongside 10 young Brazilians in a series of challenges. The group, who had been divided into four pairs and were working alongside pairs of young Brazilians, then devised their business proposals.

Mr al Jumairi and Mr bin Thalith's venture is for an indoor facility called Olé Football Centre. During their planning they researched the market and discovered that existing facilities were usually overbooked. "The industry is still growing, even with the financial crisis. The football industry has expanded a lot over the last 10 years and Dubai is perfect for indoor facilities because of the hostile weather," said Mr al Jumairi.

"Everyone here loves Brazilian football," added Mr bin Thalith. "Especially as the World Cup will be held there in 2014. "We think a quality football centre with that theme is a good business idea." Khadija Ali, the development manager of the Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development, said their plan had impressed the judges. "An entrepreneur is someone who takes a risk and these young men did that," she said.

"They spoke to their competitors and took a chance. "Sometimes businesses are not unique but they have their own way of doing things. That's what makes them succeed." Lina Hourani, from Al Ahli Holdings, which devised the competition, said the students had worked exceptionally hard to get this far. "Overall we were impressed with them all," said Ms Hourani. "If they work hard, then I'm sure all the businesses will work," she added.

@Email:aseaman@thenational.ae

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