photo by Anna Bernsen
CAIRO – 26 August 2017: For most of us, dodgeball is a sport we only see played by students at gym classes in American movies; but it turns out that Egypt not only has its very own national dodgeball team, they’ve also competed in two championships since they were formed in January 2016. The national team represented Africa in the first World Cup Championship held in April 2016 in England, and, more recently, took part in the African Nations Cup held on August 26 and 27 in Cairo. Egypt competed against South Africa, Sudan, Cameroon and Nigeria.
Ahead of the tournament cup, we sat in for a training session of the mixed-gender team coached by Amir Adly at an upscale sports club in New Cairo to see how they’re training and know what dodgeball is about. We went in expecting the American equivalent of sayadin el-samak, kids game, but a few minutes into the practice all 10 players were dripping wet from the sweat.
“Dodgeball is an amazing game where you need to be in good shape, concentrate intensely and be a team player, Adly explains. “Everybody can play dodgeball; both kids and older people, it’s a lot of fun.” Adly has been coaching the mixed team since June and tells us he believes the team has a good shot at the gold medal; a crucial step if they want to represent Africa in the world cup held next year.
“The players need to improve their fitness and we’re doing drills to improve their catching, throwing and dodging, but the team is strong,” says Adly, who also coaches tennis and is a sports trainer at a school.
Watching the dodgeball players in action is unlike most other ball-based sports. At all times there are five soft balls in play, with each team’s six players trying to get their hands on the balls and hitting the other team’s players to eliminate them from the game. One strategy seems to involve multiple players attacking at the same time, all aiming for the same player on the opponent’s team. Whenever a ball is caught or a player is hit, loud cheers would erupt while the coach yells encouraging words from the sidelines.
Christine Nakhla and Fady Ehab are concentrating hard on the game, never standing still and always trying to get their hands on a ball to shoot at the other team. Both Nakhla and Ehab discovered dodgeball at sports camp and decided to sign up for the national team’s tryouts afterward.
“I was playing basketball at the time, that was my main sport, but I really liked dodgeball because the techniques are different and the rules are unlike other sports,” says Ehab, 25, who is a dentist by profession.
Nakhla, who looks much younger than her age (30 years), is also a former basketball player and is an engineer. Nakhla says, “throwing a ball through a hoop is not so different from throwing a ball at a player. In both cases you are throwing the ball to hit a target, even though the basket hoop is stationary and dodgeball players are in constant motion.”
“Sometimes you have to throw based on prediction; so if you feel that the player in front of you is going to jump, you’ll throw the ball higher,” says Ehab.
When asked about their individual strengths, Ehab mentions communication between himself and his teammates. Communication is made through hand signals and is an important aspect of the sport since all players need to be in on the strategy. Ehab explains that the coaches don’t want their players shouting out who they are going to target and so hand signals are necessary to identify one target.
Coach Adly, Nakhla and Ehab agree that Egypt’s biggest competition in the African Cup is South Africa. “It’s a big challenge, because the competition is tough and only one team will be representing the African continent,” Nakhla says. “But I think we will do well.
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