This summer the Dutch Feyenoord Rotterdam launched their football academy in Egypt, kick-starting their activities through four branches around the country.
The award-winning football team and academy has a track record of grooming young talents and producing renowned players like Robin Van Persie, former Manchester United and Arsenal player, and Givanni Van Bronckhorst, current Feyenoord manager who achieved domestic league title this year with the club.
“Our academy has won the best academy prize in the Netherlands from 2009 to 2014. Now, we have half of the first team from our academy members,” Melvin Boel, international development coach at the academy, tells Egypt Today.
Gido Vader, international relations manager of Feyenoord Rotterdam Club, explains that they chose Egypt as a place to grow their brand internationally in countries that share the same passion for football. “We found the right partner to start something here, in Egypt. This was the moment to do it,” says Vader.
Egypt has previously produced players for Feyenoord, including Haitham Farouk, the first Egyptian to play at the club, Hossam Ghaly who played for four years at the club and national team goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy.
The academy targets kids, ages 6 to 18. “Six is the age when the child starts to gain awareness, and 18 is the age when players reach their professional level,” owner of Feyenoord in Egypt Mohamed El Boghdady tells us.
Aiming to prep their players to become international stars and join top teams in Europe, the academy is bringing in Dutch coaches—including professional players—who will receive annual professional training here and abroad to keep abreast of the latest techniques.
Vader explains that unlike their cooler-tempered Dutch counterparts, Egyptian players “stand out due to the passion they put in their game.” He adds that this passion is something they like to see on the field, which means that, with the right training, young talents can easily reach international professional levels.
“If we combine the eagerness of the Egyptian player to win and our tactical approach, who knows what we can achieve?” says Vader.
This training, however, goes beyond gaining basic playing skills and includes psychological and mental training to learn restraint. “The academy’s aim is not only to teach the basics of football, but also to help build the personality of professional football players,” El Boghdady says. He adds that Egyptian players are often gifted, but need to work on their manners outside the playing field; something the academy will work on improving to equip young talents to become international players.
They are aiming to send at least 10 players to play in Europe annually, including sending some to play with Feyenoord. “The club will market young players from the academy to join others in Europe,” El Boghdady adds. They will also send 120 players to summer camps at Feyenoord to gain international experience.
The academy will operate at Maadi Sports Center in Cairo, Hilal Aswan Sporting Club in Aswan, Borussia Club in Tenth of Ramadan and the Sports Center in Ismailia. et
On the Ground
Egyptian footballers who played in Feyenoord talk about their experience in the Netherlands.
“It was a very important journey, and it was difficult at the same time. I went there, did a trial and I succeeded. I didn’t go through the Egyptian National Team.
Playing abroad changes the player in the way he communicates with others and in the discipline. In Europe, you have to put your maximum effort in the training to play. Feyenoord is a big name in Europe. They are also the current Dutch league-winners. They are the last club from the Netherlands to win the Europa League in 2002.”
—Haitham Farouk, the first Egyptian player to play in Feyenoord
“Feyenoord was the beginning of my career in Europe. I learned how to depend on myself, to be patient, and learned the basics of football. Also, I learned to adapt to live in Europe. I benefited a lot from playing there.
The differences between Egyptian and Dutch players are in the discipline and the players’ professional level, meaning that the player has rights and at the same time he has duties that he is supposed to fulfill.”
—Hossam Ghaly, Al Ahly’s current midfielder who played for Feyenoord
“With Feyenoord, I played with the first team for the first time in my life. The club gave me the opportunity to play against big teams, and I will always have great feelings towards the club.
This academy will help to transfer the Dutch football culture to the Egyptian youngsters; it provides a link between young Egyptian talents and such a big club like Feyenoord.”
—Sherif Ekramy, played for four years in Feyenoord
“I went to Feyenoord in the start of my managerial career. They were so organized, and I think they will help to improve the quality of talents in Egypt.”
— Diaa Elsayed, former Egyptian national team under-19 coach about his time in Feyenoord as a coach.