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EXCLUSIVE | Farida Salem’s journey from Egypt to Canada and back

Former Maadi Sports and Yacht player and graduate, , is returning back home after playing and studying in .

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It’s difficult to leave home to attend college across the world, but that’s exactly what Farida Salem did when she traded the Egyptian heat for the Canadian cold. An athletic scholarship recipient, Farida attended Vancouver Island University after deciding that football was her passion and future career goal. She studied Sport Health and Physical Education and continued working with her degree after her graduation. Salem was part of a historical team her freshman year after winning the team’s first title in 18 years, finishing top of the province and sixth across Canada.

The former Maadi Sports and Yacht player is well known in the Women’s football world, being a big believer in empowering girls to pick up football and play to their heart’s desire. Farida’s passion has led her back to to work to inspire local girls to follow their passions.

The 24-year-old spoke with KingFut‘s Sina Isaac on her start in football, her time in Canada, and coming back home to Egypt.

Sina Isaac: How did you first get into soccer and start playing it?

Farida Salem: I started playing soccer when I was 11 years old. It was at school with the boys during lunchtime for fun.

SI: You were playing in Canada with your university, how would you compare playing in Canada to playing in Egypt?

FS: It was a very physically demanding game in Canada, and the level of competition was like no other. I struggled to adjust to their physical style of play, allowing little room for skill and creativity. It took a couple of injuries and several months to adapt. However, in Egypt, it was the total opposite. I used to rely on my skill to compensate for my lack of physical strength.

SI: How have you managed to balance playing professionally and your studies?

FS: I feel like if you have a good system going, you can do so much in your day. I love the thought that you have the exact same amount of time in your day as your idols. Crisitano Ronaldo has the same 24 hours per day that I do. I have no excuse for not doing everything I love.

SI: How do your friends and family feel about you playing soccer?

FS: They have always supported me throughout the journey. I am very grateful for my mom and my brothers and all my friends for helping me reach my goals and dreams.

SI: Who have been your biggest supporters, other than your friends and family, in your journey?

FS: My teachers and my professors throughout my whole educational career are my biggest supporters, alongside my coaches and my fitness trainers of course whom I respect and look up to always. I owe a lot to Coach Mostafa Mounir, head coach of Maadi [Sports and Yacht] FC, and to my strength and conditioning coaches who have helped me reach my full potential: Coach Mahmoud Hamdi and Coach Sherif Elsadat.

SI: Who would you say is your biggest role model both on and off the field?

FS: My mother is my biggest role model. She is the reason behind all what I have become. Aside from her, I have always admired and followed Alex Morgan of the US Women’s National team. She is a top class player who is constantly looking for ways to improve her game, and off field she is a writer, and writing is something I love to do in my free time.

SI: You’re in the process of moving back to Egypt to start a new academy for girls. How did you form the idea and what are your goals for the academy?

FS: I am aware of the hype around me moving back to Egypt and it has always been my dream to bring back my international experience to my home and help develop the women’s game in Egypt, and potentially the world. I am back in Cairo now. I am starting soccer camps for girls (the first one will take place later this year – stay tuned!!). It will be like a workshop of intense training and basic skills acquisition. I am hoping to target all the girls who want to learn how to play soccer and target those who already play but want to improve their skills and their vision of the game. Hopefully if the first camp is successful, there will be many more exciting camps to follow!

SI: As a young woman playing the sport, what would you say is the biggest challenge that you all face?

FS: I think some of the biggest challenges we face are the lack of interest by the general public about the women’s side of the game. I think we lack strong, female role models in leadership positions in this game as well, which is my biggest motivator to actually pursue this dream – to change people’s perspectives and break the gender stereotypes and inequality in soccer, and sport in general.

SI: Do you feel like there is a lack of coverage of the Women’s league, cup, and National Teams in Egypt. If so, how do you think media can do better?

FS: There is some media coverage for sure, but I think it is important to shed light on the fact that this sport is just as much for female players as male players. I think it shouldn’t be a big deal that girls know how to play soccer. I think that it is reaching a point, globally, where soccer is accepted as a female sport so it is improving for sure. I think the big media channels should start covering regular league matches and not just covering the semi finals and the finals like they do every year. Because by covering those matches, people will start knowing who the players are – putting a name on the face will really make a difference and have people invest their time to learn more about national heroins like Nour El Sherbini and Farida Osman. We all know who they are because they have what it takes to compete on the national caliber. Why can’t we say the same about women’s soccer?

We are definitely improving as a nation and as a sport. The media should stream all the games and feature as many athletes that we have abroad and invite them back to compete for the Egyptian national team, ask other world class nations to play against us, and maybe one day we can fill a whole stadium of people going to watch a women’s soccer game – what a lovely thought that that is, don’t you think?

SI: Do you see a similar issue with coverage in Canada? If so, how are they similar or different to in Egypt?

FS: Canada is aware of their potential as a nation and they invest in and market for their national teams. They are ranked #4 in the world and are constantly looking for ways to move forward with their coaching staff and their youth development programs. Therefore, they are farther along the road in my opinion. But that does not mean that we can’t get there. It is just a little new in Egypt. Women’s soccer started appearing in Cairo in 1993. That is significantly new in comparison to the top tier nations. We just need a little more support and some more time for sure.

SI: How has the lack of funding for the national teams and the league affected Egypt’s ability to move forward in the sport?

FS: I have been away for four years and I am not up to date with the current situation. However, I have recently heard that Safia Abdeldayem, FIFA Master and an old friend of mine, became the ambassador for women in the Egyptian Football Association. She is a fantastic candidate with an abundance of both knowledge and experience in the game and I know she will do great things.

READ: Egyptian women’s national team on verge of becoming unranked

SI: What other problems do you all face as players?

FS: In my humble opinion, all female soccer players around the globe suffer from unequal pay in comparison to the men. Most, if not all of, female soccer players have second and third jobs to be able to sustain themselves. In the United States, national team players are fighting for “Equal Pay” and it is resonating around the world. I believe one day this will not be an issue any more.

SI: What is your advice for young girls who want to play professionally and play abroad?

FS: My advice to young girls who want to play professionally is learn how to be diciplined both on and off the field. Learn how to manage your time. And learn how to put both your academics and your sport on the same level of commitment. For young girls who want to play abroad, I highly encourage you to take small steps to reach your bigger goals. Learn how to play in Egypt first. Learn what you need to know about where you want to play. Watch a lot of female soccer games online. And take your fitness seriously. All the above applies to anyone who wants to take their game to the next level. And know that I am here to support you in any way that I possibly can – through my soccer camps or simply through my social media J Reach out to me and I am more than happy to mentor/guide/support you all the way!

SI: Anything else you would like to add for our readers?

FS: I just want everyone to know that hard work really pays off. And I want you to know that God gives you all that you wish for in time. Just be patient, work hard in every thing you do, and you will succeed. Follow me on Instagram to know where and when my first soccer camp is taking place @faridasalem

KingFut would like to thank Farida for her time and wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.

In addition to being a football/soccer and basketball enthusiast, I am currently pursuing a combined BS/MD degree at VCU. I also currently work as a Pharmacy Technician in my spare time.

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