Athletes and coaches from all around the world regularly crisscross their region, country, or continent as they travel to one major sporting event after another in order to participate and compete.
Despite the growing trend of accessibility in travel, professional athletes still face a multitude of challenges when traveling abroad on short notice. At some point, the question of a visa for athletes may come up.
We spoke to Omar Al Souma, Saudi-based Al Ahli football player about the planning and preparation he needs to undertake for his travel. He has been playing football for almost two decades – his popularity skyrocketed in 2007 when he travelled from Syria to Dammam to participate in the Asian Youth Cup and lead his team to victory.
Al Souma says that he has travelled frequently since and requires a visa for most countries he visits. Earlier, he had to visit the visa application centre to submit his application and biometric information but that has changed since he started using VFS Global’s new Visa At Your Doorstep service.
The technology-enabled service brings the visa application process directly to the applicant, and that too at their preferred time and location. This means aspiring travellers have the luxury of an easy and convenient visa application submission – a team of trained staff visits the individual or group of applicants to enrol their biometric data and collect their visa application documents.
Recounting his experience, Al Souma said: “I have been playing matches all over and the visa process can be time consuming. Visa At Your Doorstep proved to be the best decision I could have taken for this process as I travel regularly – it not only enabled me to apply for my Schengen visa to France in comfort, but the team was professional, competent and consistently responsive to any questions I had.”
“Throughout my Schengen visa application, VFS Global provided a personalized approach which suited my needs perfectly. The application that the French consulate received was very detailed and complete, which I feel was the reason why the whole experience was smooth and most importantly, brief,” he added.
Travelling for sports has facilitated Al Souma’s interest in exploring different parts of the world. He makes sure to visit main attractions of the countries he visits and said that his recent visit to the Eiffel Tower in Paris was one of the most memorable parts of his trip to France.
As playing sports is a huge commitment, athletes often miss out on other types of travel opportunities because of their dedication to the game. In addition to enhancing his openness to new ideas and experiences, Al Souma believes that travel challenges athletes to gain skills on and off the field.