Psychotherapist Hussam Nabil is best known for trademarking a new approach to mental wellness in 2020 – but his expertise goes beyond that.
With a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Cairo University, Nabil has a long history of promoting and organising sporting events. Only four years after graduating in 2000, he had been already promoted several times to become marketing manager for Al-Sadd Sports Club in Qatar.
His unique qualifications and ability to learn quickly were the springboard to his obtaining a Master’s degree in Sports Management from the IE business school in Madrid, Spain. After returning to Qatar, he was involved in organising major international sporting events.
Nabil’s experience in sports, combined with a successful career as a psychotherapist, a multicultural background, and enthusiasm for politics and economics, place him as one of the top Egyptian experts in sports tourism marketing.
Based on your experience in sports management, what does sports mean for people?
People have used sports since the beginning of history to create community, enjoy entertainment, and release energy. Sport is a way for people to express their physicality and enjoy competition non-violently. Some even go as far as saying that sports are a peaceful substitute for war.
It is important to distinguish between playing sports and watching sports. With that in mind, generally speaking sports pertains to any form of competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain, or improve physical ability and skills, while providing enjoyment to participants and, in some cases, entertainment to spectators.
How does it impact them psychologically?
Physical exercise can have a major impact on quality of life. It has significant benefits for mental health and provides self-esteem, teamwork skills, and a close community of peers and support groups.
What is the psychological impact of practicing sports or taking part in fan bases as a person or a group?
Exercise positively impacts levels of serotonin, a chemical that helps regulate mental health. It also boosts endorphins, the body’s natural “happy chemicals”. Additionally, physical activity also stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which improves mood. On the other hand, levels of the stress hormone cortisol go down when we exercise.
People who develop an athletic skill feel more positive about their bodies and their physical abilities, thus, improving their self-esteem. When we play sports, we are distracted from stressful and negative thoughts, and sleep better at night, which is essential for maintaining mental health.
What is your view on Egypt organising international sports tournaments?
By seizing opportunities to host major international sporting events, Egypt will be able to attract fans and enthusiasts from all over the world, who, with their spending power, will allow Egypt to cover for the necessary investments it made, and also start a source of income from other benefits gained. It also attracts foreign direct investments and boosts Egypt’s profile on the international stage.
In addition, a positive impact comes in the form of social and cultural developments. Hosting such events requires the country to synergise efforts, and maintain a required level of unity that reinforces people’s capabilities operationally and organisationally.
Moreover, with increased media coverage and large groups of journalists documenting their time during the events, the cultural and social norms of the country are publicised, enabling Egypt to benefit from an advertising and public relations campaign at no cost. Similarly, with the events and competitions followed by a huge international audience, the image of the country is greatly enhanced.
However, hosting these events can also spur a negative impact as well. The seemingly big funds and elaborate spectacles that accompany such events have caused some sectors of society to feel upset in the past, and sometimes media attention is focused on negative impacts, so we need to be careful.
The Brazilian government had to face protests that could have turned violent while preparing to host the World Cup and the Olympic Games, while China was thrust into the limelight during the Olympics when stories leaked about 1 million residents of Beijing who were displaced during the events. Another example is the negative coverage Qatar received about the working conditions of the construction workers building World Cup facilities.
Is there sports tourism? How do we develop it?
Sports tourism is defined as an individual’s travel to a location for the specific purpose of either participating in or viewing a sporting event. This segment is the fastest growing segment within the travel industry today. It could be anything from a senior tennis tournament for retired couples, to a child’s football team travelling to Sharm El-Sheikh for a football tournament, to a weekend getaway in March to see Al-Ahly take on Al-Ittihad Al-Sakandary in Alexandria.
Sports tourism can be broken into five categories: Sports participation; Sports events; Sports training; Luxury sports tourism; and Tourism with sports content.
Whatever sport tourists are travelling for, their presence has become quite lucrative. Youth sports tourism, a subset of sports tourism, is growing at a particularly rapid rate, with Wintergreen Research Inc valuing the youth sports tourism industry at $15.8bn in the US, and has projected it to double in size in the next few years.
In your opinion, why is Sports Tourism important?
This kind of tourism brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to a specific location. Those people need to eat, and they need places to stay, and stores to shop at. That means more money for hotels, restaurants, sports facilities, and gift-shops alike.
Sports tourism helps communities establish an identity that can draw visitors who, with time, may become residents. In 2004 for example, the city of Round Rock, Texas launched a campaign to brand themselves as the “sports capital of Texas”. Today, the Round Rock Sports Center and Round Rock Multipurpose Complex have hosted a myriad of events, including the US Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate National Championship, the US Quidditch Cup 11, USA Judo National Championship, and the UIL State Baseball Championship.
What do we need in Egypt to increase these activities and raise awareness of their importance?
Egypt needs to start with a vision, and quickly move into understanding the opportunity in the different communities. If the location, market demand, and other factors are primed, cities of all sizes can take advantage of the economic development benefits generated from sports tourism.
Egypt should determine the vision for a proposed sports complex and define success, and must think what type of complex is seeks. It is one thing to try to attract sports tourism to Hurghada than to the new administrative capital or attracting regional or national events. From there, it is critical to determine what success looks like for each community. For many communities, economic impact is critical.
A feasibility report provides an analysis of the factors that may impact a proposed facility. This includes an assessment of comparable venues nearby and an analysis of the region’s demographics. Reports should include preliminary construction and start-up cost estimates, a detailed five-year financial forecast based on options for what a facility may offer, and an economic impact analysis.
Sports complexes do not get built without funding. A financial forecast provides a clear picture for banks, and other potential funding partners, of a project’s ability and timeline for accomplishing its goals.
Once funding is in place, all phases of facility development can commence. This includes operational tasks such as staff selection and development, facility branding and marketing, bringing in events and sponsors, and most importantly, the construction of the complex. We also have a strong need in Egypt to adopt sports branding and sports marketing best practices.
Egypt already has some world class facilities and sports complexes that remain vacant for 90% of the year, because no one knows they exist! Think of the Cairo Stadium complex. Apart from the 20 games that are played at the stadium each year, we have this colossal complex sitting idle, draining budget, and making no money!
How are players psychologically impacted after seeing, competing, and playing with world champions?
As a general rule, the most successful athletes and people approach big events and competitions in a completely different way than unsuccessful athletes and people. For most people, the idea of competing against someone better or more experienced than themselves terrifies them.
For the most successful athletes and people, this prospect invigorates them and makes them excited. They find it fun and interesting, and they adopt a posture of feeling giddy and wanting to learn from the experience, as opposed to feeling terrified and stressed.