Across different fields and industries, women, time and again, establish a strong presence everywhere they go, bringing forth the positive, impactful change we want to see happening. In sports media, an in-dustry that is mainly male-dominated and with less attention to women, Nirvana Elabd embarked on an inspiring journey, overcoming challenges, and moving past gender barriers and stereotypes.
With an immense interest in sports that started at an early age, Nirvana pursued her passion throughout her upbringing with dedication, commitment, and perseverance, reaching where she is today, a renowned sports journalist, marking the first Egyptian female presenter at beIN Sports. Having worked with esteemed media outlets, she boasts a rich experience under her belt, challenging all norms and setting an exemplary model of female representation. In this interview, Nirvana takes us through her journey in the sports media industry and shares with us the most remarkable moments in her career.
1. Firstly, we would like to know a little bit about your journey with sports, and the early be-ginnings of your career in media
From a very young age, I loved sports. I started swimming at the age of four and explored a range of other sports, including basketball, during my adolescence. Another passion of mine was communications and even as a child I knew I wanted to work within the media landscape. Work-ing towards that goal, I graduated from Cairo University with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Commu-nications and Media Studies and kicked off my career in the world of media and broadcasting by working as a weather forecaster on OnLive TV – a role I stayed in for almost two years.
2. What intrigued you to pursue TV presenting? And was covering sports your initial goal?
I was fascinated by presenters, their talent, and their ability to captivate an audience. With a keen interest in sports, I wanted to merge my two passions, so I actively started maneuvering my career towards covering sports.
3. Sports are an integral part of Egyptian culture, especially football in Egypt, how did that play into your upbringing and do you have any memories that place sports as a signifi-cant aspect of your childhood/upbringing?
Football in Egypt is more than just a sport; it’s a cultural phenomenon that brings people together, fosters national pride, and has a substantial impact on various aspects of Egyptian society. When I was younger, my father would take my siblings and me to watch football matches and I experienced an incredible sense of community. Apart from football, sports have played a huge role in my life and have been a constant presence within my family growing up - something that truly brought us closer.
My sister and I started swimming when I was just four years old, which led to me being placed in the top three percentile in the National High School Swimming league, as a silver medalist. I also learned how to row, play rugby, and squash. If I could go back in time, I would have tried to pur-sue squash professionally.
4. Do you think women are included and celebrated in sports, if not how did that manifest in your life in general and professional experience in particular?
Unfortunately, even now, in many parts of the world, women’s sports still receive less attention, funding, and media coverage compared to men’s games. This lack of visibility often contributes to the perception that women’s sports are not as important. However, as a female presenter working in the industry, I am proud to be able to promote women’s sports and celebrate their achievements.
Efforts have been made for some time now to address various challenges that impact media coverage of women’s sports and gradually we are starting to see a shift in perception, aided by positive results and growing interest. For example, the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ featured 32 national teams for the first time, representing a huge achieve-ment for a tournament that just 12 years ago involved only 16 participants.
In fact, beIN SPORTS recorded a cumulative viewership of 93.5 million viewers for the Women’s World Cup, which is unprecedented in this region. We also witnessed a series of firsts as Moroc-co not only qualified for the tournament, but also progressed through their group stage – at the expense of two-time world champions Germany. Such landmark moments will only serve to in-spire future female athletes from the Arab World.
As a female professional working in the broadcasting industry, I’m very much aware of the chal-lenges women face. I have been extremely fortunate in my career so far to not only work along-side women who have established a strong presence in sports broadcasting, but also to work for a company that encourages women to partake in every aspect of the business. At beIN, from female presenters to analysts to commentators, there is a large and growing group of accom-plished women. To be able to both pursue my dreams and help further the presence of women in sports on screen is something I am very grateful for.
5. Having first started covering sports news in 2020, how did that career move come about, did you have any initial fears, and how did you get to where you are today?
I always knew I wanted to become a sports presenter. In 2020, I was given the opportunity to start presenting my own programme, “One, Two” on Zamalek TV. Soon after, I launched "Akhbarna" – a news show dedicated to Zamalek Club. With more experience under my belt, I then co-hosted a morning show that gave me the platform to express my personal views, while presenting engaging sports news. This was a remarkable chapter in my career that will always hold a special place in my heart. When I joined beIN SPORTS in 2022, I was of course nervous to work alongside industry legends, having recently kicked-off my sports journalism career. Nevertheless, my passion for sports journalism was my motivation to work harder than I ever have before, leading me to where I am today, presenting major sports tournaments to millions of fans in the MENA region via one of the world’s leading broadcasters.
6. What was the experience like at first, in terms of public reactions and feedback?
Starting a career as a sports journalist was nerve-wracking, but I was excited to see my years of hard work pay off. The response from the public was overwhelmingly positive, however, I did re-ceive my fair share of constructive criticism, which is expected in a public-facing career. Today, I can proudly say I have cultivated a substantial fan base that I deeply appreciate.
7. Do you think the representation of female sports presenters encourages female athletes at large, if yes how?
I believe the representation of female sports presenters can definitely have a positive impact on female athletes, and the other way around! We have the ability to contribute to changing the nar-rative around women’s sports, highlight the strengths, skills, stories, and struggles of female athletes; ensuring their story resonates with a wider audience.
In parallel, female athletes broke through gender barriers in the sporting world. So, one could argue that their presence, perseverance, and successes encourage women in the sports media in-dustry to defy those stereotypes and make their mark in this traditionally male-dominated indus-try.
In essence, the representation of female sports presenters goes beyond simply delivering sports news and analysis. It plays a crucial role in challenging norms, promoting equality, and motivating the next generation of female sport enthusiasts to pursue their dreams with determination and passion.
8. Are there any memorable moments that you would like to share about your work at beIN, specific feedback you’ve gotten, a guest you’ve spoken to, or an episode you’re particu-larly proud of?
Covering the historic FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM from beIN’s home turf is something that I will never forget. I had the opportunity to be the leading host of the “Ain Al Makan” programme during the tournament, which will forever be a landmark moment in my career.
I was also thrilled to be a part of the team of expert presenters covering the Asian Games, which was another incredible experience.
9. What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a career in sports media or foot-ball/sports in general?
To succeed in a sports media career, passion is the driving force, coupled with strong sports knowledge. Additionally, networking is vital; building connections within the industry, attending events, and engaging on social media is very important to building a strong presence. Having hands-on experience through internships or freelance work is also essential as it adds to your credentials and experience, particularly at the start of your career.
Of course, other skills such as communication, copywriting, and a solid know-how of multimedia tools add versatility and make you a stronger candidate. Setbacks are extremely common in this industry, so persistence and resilience are important too.
Lastly, it is key to remember that the media landscape is extremely competitive, but with determination, passion, and the right skills, you can build a very successful career. And always re-member to use your platform to advocate for diversity and stay true to yourself.