INTERVIEW: Brighton-born Egyptian Adam El-Abd
The old saying “good things come to those who wait” proves true when we take a look at the career of Brighton legend Adam El-Abd. Born in Brighton to an Egyptian father and a British mother, El-Abd stated his interest to play for Egypt in 2005, leaving many Egyptians scratching their heads over the years as to why he was never given a chance to represent the Pharaohs during Hassan Shehata’s remarkable 7-year reign. Finally, on May 20, 2012, Adam El-Abd made his international debut in Sudan, in a friendly against Cameroon after being called up by Egypt national team coach Bob Bradley.
The next stop for the Seagull legend was to sit down and discuss his career with King Fut…
Where it all began
Yes, from a very early age I used to play football and I remember by the age of 10 I was at Brighton. All I wanted to be was a footballer.
You come from a very sporting family with Sami and Joe also professional athletes, how did you choose football instead of following the footsteps of your older brother Joe into rugby?
We all used to play both sports. At school we all loved both sports. But when I came to an age where I had to make a decision, it was always going to be football.
What other sports did you play as a youngster? Still occasionally play them now?
I used to play all sports: tennis, squash, golf…
(Now) I don’t really get a chance to play any other sports; as when I’m not training, I’m usually resting trying to prepare for the next day. In the off season, I love a round of golf still though.
Who were the most influential people in your early days?
I would have to say my mum and dad. My dad was the one that introduced me to football and my mum was the one who used to shuttle me round making sure I was everywhere on time. If it wasn’t for her sacrificing a lot of her time, I would never be a professional now.
What was your favorite team growing up?
Naturally, Brighton. I used to go and watch back in the Goldstone days! I also followed Brighton as my grandparents lived there and when I went to visit they used to take me to watch (Nottingham) Forest.
Did you know that you had many following you in Egypt and a lot of Egyptians have been supporting BHAFC even before you joined the NT?
That’s great to hear that many Egyptians have adopted Brighton as there English team. Egyptians are fanatical about their football and it’s great to have their support.
Brighton has been moving in the right direction since promotion and made some real ambitious signings over the last 2 summers. How influential has Gus Poyet been in the Brighton dressing room and how has he changed the mentality of Brighton players? Have there been many changes in training since his arrival?
Since Gus (Poyet) came, the club has been transformed beyond recognition. Some of the signings made this summer have been eye-catching names which have made the nation start taking Brighton very seriously. The whole mentality of the football club has changed. He has brought a winning mentality from day one.
You came back strong last season after your injury, how did you quickly adapt to Championship football?
It wasn’t easy. With great help from the fitness coach and the medical team I managed to get back fit. It was the first serious injury I have had in my career and getting back fit was tough mentally and physically. I’m pleased I have managed to get a good pre-season in me which will hold me in good stead for the season.
Last season you were often deployed at full-back, what’s your preferred position on the pitch? With Brighton’s recent defensive acquisitions in Wayne Bridge and Bruno, do you think you will be limited to the centre?
I am a centre-back. This is where I feel most comfortable and play my best football. I can do a job in either full-back positions if needed but wouldn’t say I’m a full-back.
Egyptians are really excited about the prospect of watching you play in the Premier League, what do you think of Brighton’s chances of promotion this season?
We have strengthened in the summer and will have every chance of competing at the top-end of the league this season. We have as good a chance as any.
Egypt and the National Team
How does it feel to finally play for the Egyptian national team?
It fills me with pride. It was one of my boyhood dreams to play for Egypt.
Do you and the family visit Egypt often? Any family members still live here?
Yes, I have family in Cairo and in Alex. I went to Egypt to visit or to holiday.
Were you following the news of the national team or even Egyptian football in general before being called up?
I’ve been following the news of the Egyptian national team. As far as club football goes, well, not really as its not covered in the UK.
We’ve heard that Egyptian players have done a great job welcoming you to the team, what did you think of the character of this Egyptian squad?
I instantly got the feeling the group were extremely close, like a family. They made me feel welcome from day one. They all played their part in welcoming me and I thank them for that.
What’s the main difference(s) you noticed between training in England and in Egypt?
Training was very similar. Bob (Bradley) and Gus (Poyet) have very similar training styles and methods.
Do you feel more in touch with your Egyptian side after representing the national team?
I have always been in touch with my Egyptian side. My dad brought us up as a family knowing our roots and it was a great honour to finally represent Egypt. It fills my family and I with immense pride.
You’ve been compared to Wael Gomaa by Egyptians, citing the same physique, tough aspect of the game and the no non-sense attitude; what do you make of being compared to an Egyptian legend already?
Wael Gomaa is a legend. Naturally people will make comparisons as I have a shaved head like his and play in the same position, but the reality is that I have done nothing when compared to him. If I can achieve a fraction of what he has done I will be happy.
We understand that you’ve recently started learning the Arabic language; how is that coming along? Despite having an English-speaking coach, did you feel communication was an issue at times or could the majority of the Egyptian squad hold their own in English convos?
Football is a universal language. I am taking Arabic lessons now that I’m back in the UK as I desperately want to be able to speak. A lot of the boys speak very good English which obviously helps, but I am playing for Egypt so I need to learn. It’s something that I am eager to do.
Who in the Egyptian National team, in your opinion, is Premier League caliber? Why do you think there aren’t many Egyptians in the Premiership or in the Championship?
A lot of players in the Egyptian squad could play in England. I don’t know the reason why more don’t to be honest.
Your paper work wasn’t completed in time to feature in Egypt’s busy schedule last month, what is the status with this?
I’m still waiting for the military exemption. Once I have that I can file for a passport. Hopefully it won’t be too long.
What do you think of the prospect of playing with Egypt at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?
It would be a dream to play in a World Cup. I think we have the quality in the squad to make it and who knows once you are there!
Lots of Egyptians are interested in knowing this, would you ever consider playing for an Egyptian club in the future?
Yes, I would certainly consider it. I would be foolish to say I wouldn’t, but at the moment I am contracted to Brighton until the end of the season and I am happy here.
Would you like to stay in the football industry after you hang up the boots, give management a try perhaps, or would you like to try something new after all these years?
Football is my passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Retiring and life after football scares me. Let’s just say I’m going to do everything to stay in the game when I retire.
Who is your favorite player that you’ve ever played with alongside?
I have played with many good players. When I was young and coming through there were a number of good pros that were an example to me.
Who is the toughest player that you ever played against?
Vicente Rodrigues in training everyday!
What do you think of England’s performance in Euro 2012?
It was pretty much as expected. England are not as good at the moment as the top nations in Europe.
What’s your most memorable football moment?
My debut. Also my first appearance at the Amex after coming back from injury.
How do you usually spend your free time?
Relaxing with my family.
What’s your favorite Egyptian food?
I love taboula (parsley salad), hummus, and pittas. After the Mozambique game we stopped the bus and had fateer (Egyptian pies usually stuffed with meat, cheese, etc). I had never had it before but it tastes good!
If any Egyptians plan to go to Brighton, what are the must visit spots?
A walk along the seafront and the pier is a must if you’re visiting Brighton.
This question comes from a Brighton fan, what’s your favorite protein shake?
[Laughs] They certainly know me well!
KingFut.com will be providing regular news and updates on Adam El-Abd and Brighton and Hove Albion FC, and would like to thank them for their time and wish them the best of luck during the 2012-2013 Championship season.
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