“..doing the utmost for the spreading of the game!”AFI had the opportunity to speak with Abdalrahman Hafez, Vice President of the GUC Eagles and American Football in Cairo, Egypt. Initially gathering players from the German University of Cairo (GUC) Eagles, American Football in Egypt has been growing rapidly. Just last year the Egyptian League of American Football (ELAF) was formed.
Egypt, officially: the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia, via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. With a population exceeding 86 million, it is the 15th most populated country on Earth. Abdo Hafez and the rest of his organziaton hope to make those 86 million all new American Football fans!
The goal of this Q&A with Abdo Hafez is to provide insight on the growth and current state of American Football in Egypt, as well as study the challenges and bright future for American Football in the North Africa!
1. Who are the GUC Eagles?
The GUC Eagles is first university team playing American football in Egypt. Located in the German University in Cairo and one of the founding teams in ELAF.
2. Tell us a little about yourself and your role in your organizations.
I’m the assistant director for the team and the fundraising manager for ELAF.
3. When and how was your team/organization formed? What is the behind the founding of your organizations?
American Football started in Egypt in 2006, when Ahmed Elrefaey returned from playing high school football. This progressed to 3 equipped teams in an academy in Wadi Degla sports clubs, with field equipment as well playing a full season with the club’s private T.V. channel broadcasting our games. In 2011, when the revolution started the program officially closed releasing around 300+ players.
In June 2011, the GUC Eagles were founded. It was inaugurated a month before Wadi Degla program became defunct. Founded by Omar Kamel, submitting the required official documents via the university’s first social club; Big Buddy. Later under the supervision of Mohy Omar, Andrew Gabra and John Gabra, Inspire was born. The first athletic awareness university social club of its kind in Egypt. This was the tre birth for the GUC Eagles American football team.
Simply doing the utmost for the spreading of the game .. always!
4. How many active athletes/players are in your organization?
70 – 90 members.
5. How many teams/levels of competition are there in your organization?
Five teams with the 6th just getting ready to join ELAF.
6. What are some of the challenges your organization has faced?
This sport needs a lot of money to start and to sustain a team, which is the main challenge we are facing with the governmental and private organizations. Another thing is finding a good American Football coaches living in Egypt or willing to move to Egypt in order to start more teams and more programs for football because let’s face, good coaching is everything and we mostly had to educate ourselves as our current coaches did and still do. Also, we have a problem with starting new teams because of the players’ insurance, fear of injuries and the fact new teams rarely find the required funds to purchase equipment so they play without them. Just because we can’t get everything we need doesn’t mean we should stop doing what we believe in, and that’s American football.
7. Do you receive any support from governmental organizations?
8. What are some of the challenges you foresee for American Football in Egypt?
Financial support for player and field equipment, constant media attention and adequate facilities for practices and games
9. How do your countries law and customs affect your ability to development American Football?
Because he football equipment is not recognized in Egypt, we face a really high customs charge, they can go up for 40%, which is a killer considering that we basically fund ourselves, with our own money.
10. Are there many NFL & NCAA American Football fans in Egypt? If so, what teams or schools? How did they learn about American Football?
Yes, we have a large number of people who are following the NFL and the NCAA especially the players who play for the five teams under ELAF, the players who were in Wadi Degla academy and those before the Wadi Degla academy. Over 5000 people passed through one of the many American football programs that were established in the past 7 – 8 years.
11. Have you established a schedule? Who do you play and when does your season begin and end?
ELAF currently has 5 teams. Founded in 2013 with 3 main teams and a 4th that followed, the league is divided into the preseason games starting October till January with the season officially kicking-off in February.
12. Do your teams have access to the proper equipment and facilities?
Equipment and facilities are provided for collage teams only by the university administration. For the other teams, they have to rent their field and their equipment.
13. How do you finance the expenses related to operating your team?
Mainly, we finance the expenses by applying monthly fees for practicing with the team and through our own personal efforts.
14. What are you organization’s short-term (1-3 years) and long-term (3+ years) goals?
Our short term is to reach the 2015 IFAF World Championships in Stockholm with and Egyptian national team to represent all Egyptians and our country internationally. We also want to build the best team in Egypt using the help of IFAF to provide coaches and more equipment for the team.
Our long term goal can be generalized into increasing the number of teams to spread the game in the schools, clubs and colleges. As it’s a sport that can change the culture of a country to its better form, we simply want to invade Egypt with American Football!
15. Can you share an interesting cultural experience you’ve had in your country while trying to explain what American Football is and how it is played?
I think of football as a mixture between 2 different sports (in broad terms of course), wrestling and track and field. This is basically the easiest way we’ve been able to prepare people mentally for the sport they are about to be bound to.
16. What are events/projects are in the immediate future for your teams and league?
We might have an Arab League sometime around the end of year and we have the IFAF qualifying game with Morocco in November to decide who will be going to World Championship 2015.
17. Are there any other things you’d like to let the world know about American Football in Egypt and Eagles?
We need all the support we can get to help spreading the game in Egypt and Africa.