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Egypt’s Flawed Coaching System – And How to Fix It
Making his debut for KingFut.com, former player Ali El Khatib shares his thoughts on one of the most crucial, yet under-addressed issues holding back the Egyptian Premier League today – coaching.
Football is my life. That may seem as an overstatement but I truly love the beautiful game. I’m not afraid to admit it, I am a football fanatic. I have player the sport ever since I was a kid, and now that my playing days are over, I devote my Saturdays and Sundays to watching football.
As a child, I played in all the youth teams up until the first team for my hometown club, Maadi. Maadi Club is nowhere near one of the best clubs in Egypt; they are more of your typical “selling club.” A lot of players from Maadi have played in Egypt’s best clubs and the Egyptian youth national team. There’s even a player in El-Entag El-Harby (one of Egypt’s Premier League teams) named Abdel-Rahman Ahmed, who used to play in the same team with me. Although I was a good player, a professional contract eluded me, and that was my dream.
Even though I haven’t played for one of Egypt’s top clubs, I have certainly seen and learned a lot about football during my playing days. I have seen the incompetence of coaches and their lack of good understanding of the game hinder my, as well as others’, progress. I have seen how “politics” plays a role in deciding who starts the game, and who doesn’t. I could go on and on with a list of problems I have encountered during my playing days, but let’s take them one at a time.
Purpose of this article?
The purpose of this article is to shed some light on one of the biggest issues that faces young kids striving to become professional footballers in Egypt, and how, in my opinion, to solve it. It’s my way of giving back to the community. My chance to achieve my dream is long gone, but I want other kids with this dream to successfully achieve it.
I will be writing from past experiences that I have witnessed. My hope is that my writings will be of use to you, the readers.
Where to start…
The first problem I’d like to discuss is coaching in Egypt. The word coaching, or managing, implies a lot of things. Coaches have many responsibilities in the game. For example, they should develop players technically, physically, and mentally. They should also know each player’s strengths and weaknesses, and use them to their advantage. So there’s no doubt that coaches have a difficult job. The question that needs to be asked here is how many coaches in Egypt actually pay attention to anything other than winning? The answer is almost none.
Let’s zoom out and look at this case from a bird eye’s perspective. I believe that the root of all problems in Egypt lies in education. Yet, at this very fundamental level, Egypt’s coaching already begins to lag behind global standards.
To become a coach in Egypt you have to take a course called “ “ا لدورة الاساسية” which literally translates to “the main tournament.” As a football fanatic myself, this aspect of coaching is of interest to me. I have asked fellow coaches and professionals about this course, and they all agreed that it is almost useless and won’t teach you anything. Having been developed in the 1960s, it is just like any educational program in Egypt: old and undeveloped. Yet, a club won’t appoint you, and you won’t be able to take other courses, until you’ve taken this one.
Why are we still reliant on old, undeveloped material that was good in the 1960s? The answer to this question is beyond me.
The question we should be asking now is what can and should we do to improve the level of education in the field of sports? For starters, bringing in foreign coaches or associations to revamp this old, useless cycle of coaching education would be a step in the right direction.
Mind you, I am usually quite against foreign interference, but this is the way to start. We need to lay a solid foundation, and we could learn a lot from European associations. It would be phenomenal if we could get the English, Spanish, Italian, or German Football Associations to be a sponsor or mentor for the Egyptian FA. They would work simultaneously to enhance the footballing school in Egypt while helping revamp the coaching system as well.
This is exactly the same concept of, for example, MSA University’s venture with Middlesex University in England. Through those joint ventures, we could send coaches for programs in foreign countries which would benefit them, and in turn benefit Egyptian football.
The coaching system in Egypt current bears many similarities to the hierarchical systems of royalty in kingdoms of the past. To become a king or a prince, you had to be from the royal family. The same currently applies to Egyptian football. To become a coach, you have to have been a player. I wish nothing more than to change this mentality.
This is not a written rule, but it’s there. Find me one coach in Egypt, in any tier, who wasn’t an ex-player. One coach in Egypt’s top tier who wasn’t a top player or at least played in Egypt’s Premier League. Believe me, there aren’t. And if you weren’t a top player, you won’t be given a chance in a top club.
Jose Mourinho, Arrigo Sacchi, and Rafael Benitez; do you know what’s common between those three names? They never played football at the highest level. Mourinho was Sir Bobby Robson’s interpreter at Porto and then at Barcelona. Arrigo Sacchi was a shoe salesman with a footballing vision, and Benitez had only played for Real Madrid’s Castilla (2nd team), before signing for Parla, a 3rd division team. Between these 3 coaches are five Champions League titles, countless league titles, and several more cup honors.
My point is that you do not need to be a top player to become a top coach. And young people who were not blessed with the talent of playing football but have a dream of becoming coaches, SHOULD be given a chance.
As the great Arrigo Sacchi once said, “I never realized that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse.”