For every vuvuzela buzzing in the 2010 World Cup last summer in South Africa, there was a child in a stadium or in front of a TV set dreaming of being one of those superstars driving the ball to the goal. If it is your child aspiring to become the next Abou Treika or Lionel Messi, severa major European clubs have set up junior football academies in Cairo to train youngsters in the world’s most popular sport.
The good news is that your child will learn the game at big-league standards. The bad new: you’re on your own if you want your child to catch the attention of the big-league scouts. Currently, none of the local academies have fielded young talent to any of the international clubs.
As a general rule, a major international club sets up a football academy to both train and scout for talent, spotting the best players early and grooming them for their own locker rooms. Cases in point: International FC Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas of the Arsenal Football Club and one of the most successful players in the English Premier League were both trained at the BarcelonaAcademy.
In other parts of the world, junior academy players hone and flaunt their skills in the hope of being chosen to be part of a professional sports team. In Cairo, it’s different. Trainers and directors at local football academies say the have not yet managed to send any of their players to any high-ranking international clubs, and they admit that their opportunities to help players shine outside Egypt are rare.
Fortunately for the clubs, parents seem to accept that they are sending their children to these academies to play football for fun, not necessarily with the hope of a professional career of the popular sport. “My son wanted to play football and he is very happy with the [Barcelona] academy here,” says Sonia Mahmoud. “I think it teaches the children well.”
Indeed, like other sports and social clubs, the junior football academies offer children the chance to mingle with peers who share a passion for football and teach them to be team players.
Located in Wadi Degla Sporting Club in Zahraa El Maadi, the capital’s oldest foreign junior football academy opened in 2003 as a franchise of the ArsenalAcademy. The academy is not a separate entity, as is its North London branch, but part of the Wadi Degla Sporting Club.
Children have to be members of the club in order to have access to the pitches and to apply for and train at the academy. The fees for the 12-month training program, which runs May to April, is roughly LE 400 per month. This program is open to boys and girls and welcomes children as young as four up to 21-year-olds. Within each age group, trainee teams practice different sets of skills. Each team of trainees, coached by two trainers, does not exceed 25 children.
Captain Samir Mahmoud Shehata, an ArsenalAcademy coach, says the club currently has the largest number of trainees ever with nearly 1,200 players on board.
On a yearly basis, usually during the May to June summer break, the in-house coaches receive training from the London branch of the ArsenalAcademy.
The school only takes part in friendly tournaments held between other clubs and academies in Egypt. They also take part in an annual friendly international tournament that takes place in the United Kingdom with academies from other countries. It is not mandatory, however, and Shehata says that many parents object to the prospect of their children traveling.
While local trainees haven’t been picked up by clubs overseas, Shehata says his academy has enabled 13 young footballers to play for the Wadi Degla club, part of the Egyptian National League.
FC Barcelona Academy
Another popular club that opened locally in 2006 is the FC Barcelona Escola, the first franchise of the academy in the Middle East and the third in the world. The FC Barcelona Escola operates at Cairo’s Palm Hills Club in Sixth of October City and at Al Hayah International School in Katameya.
This academy also accepts children from both genders from ages four to 14. The Escola currently has around 700 children playing under the supervision of resident Spanish technical trainers, who are appointed by the Youth Training technical team of the Barcelona FC Academy in Spain. These technical trainers’ role is to coach both trainers and children on special football tactics and tricks.
To enroll, there is a one-time registration fee of LE 1,300 and a LE 3,000 fee every four months, with each training season spanning 10 months. The fees include the opportunity for the trainees to spend a week in Barcelona in the summertime, where they visit FC Barcelona’s CampNou stadium and participate in training and friendly matches.
If players show potential, they are given the opportunity to go to Barcelona on a yearly basis to be supervised for possible future achievements. The Escola also takes part in international friendly competitions outside of Egypt in countries such as Spain, Greece, Dubai and Kuwait.
Unlike Arsenal Academy of Wadi Degla and the FC Barcelona Escola, the famous English Chelsea Football Club is in the progress of actually establishing a fully-fledged academy, as opposed to just a franchise — this will be Chelsea’s first and only academy outside of the United Kingdom. Its location, According to Captain David Al Basha the executive director of the Chelsea Academy of Egypt, they expect to be on the premises of the suburban Petrosports Katameya Club and be operational by the end of 2011.
Currently, the ChelseaAcademy operates in a few locations under a community outreach program designed for children to get familiar with ‘the Chelsea way.’ Outreach sites are in the Heliopolis Sporting Club and the E-Zee Sports club in New Cairo. E-Zee costs LE 500 for registration and LE 750 per month. The academy also offers what is known as the “single Chelsea kit” or the “double Chelsea kit” for LE 300 and LE 600 respectively, which has jackets and jerseys carrying the club’s emblem.
Other academies located in Cairo but were not available for comments are the BrazilianSantosFootballClubAcademy located in the Maadi Sporting Club and the Italian AC Milan Academy in City Club in El Obbour. et
Arsenal Academy in Wadi Degla Sporting Club • Zahraa El Maadi • Maadi • Tel: 19917
FC Barcelona Escola • Al HayahInternationalSchool Branch • New Cairo Palm Hills Club, Sixth of OctoberCity • Tel: +2 (02) 3762-6901
E-zee Sports (Chelsea) • New Cairo Branch • 33 El-Nasr St., New Maadi • Cairo • Tel: +2 (016) 584-0000