Interview | Fady Armanious, from Egypt’s second tier to India’s Goa Professional League
As Kingfut has been always interested in shedding light on Egyptian players abroad, we interviewed Fady Armanious to get to know more about his unnoted football career and discuss his latest experience in the Goa Professional League.
Armanious, a 29-year-old winger, right back and recently a playmaker, is a professional footballer from Cairo who started his career with Heliopolis Club. His talents were recognized afterwards by Wadi Degla where he got to experience playing alongside Egyptian Premier League players.
Although his future seemed bright and was quickly developing, the period that followed the revolution and the incidents of the Portsaid massacre did not help young players like him who were just starting their routes to success.
We will go through the conditions Armanious was put in and how he managed to work around such conditions all the way to his efforts in India through our interview with him.
How did it all start for you? At what age did you begin playing football and what got you into taking the sport to a professional level?
It all started when I was a young boy going to the club with my family to play sports. I started with swimming when I was five years old along with football, then I decided that I want to focus only on football. It was really my biggest passion. I went professional when I understood that sports are the most amazing thing in the world and when I realized that I could be doing this full time and earn money. That was a great realization.
I was also brought up around a typical Egyptian family, who despite their support, want me to be on the safe side in life, with a stable job, reliable career and to make enough money, which isn’t really what you get from football most of the time.
I didn’t want to be like that, I didn’t want to be another brick in the wall. I wanted to do be doing something different, doing something I love and that I am good at. Of course, at first, it wasn’t easy at all, especially that at that time not a lot of Egyptian players were playing abroad, so the idea itself wasn’t popular.
You started your career at Heliopolis Club, then moved to Wadi Degla. When did you join Degla and how was that experience?
Yes, everything started at Heliopolis club. In 2006, I signed a contract to play for Wadi Degla’s youth sector and stayed there till 2010, that was when the club was promoted to the Egyptian Premier League for the first time.
At that time there was this rule that forced every club to have five players in their squad from the youth team. I was chosen by then-coach Walter Meeuws to be one of those five.
I had a five-year professional contract that started in the 2009/10 season. I spent one year with the team, then I was supposed to go on loan because the Belgium coach wanted me to take part in more games since it was hard for me as a young player to compete with the first team squad for a starting spot.
So I started looking for a loan deal but failed to do so due to a few internal problems at the club. Eventually, Momen Soliman, who was coaching Telecom Egypt SC back then, decided to buy me permanently for three years to join him in the second tier. I was playing there during the 2010/11 season.
This is the season when everything changed. How did the suspension of the league affect you?
Sadly, the whole team did not continue playing and we were all dismissed since it was impossible for us to play after the suspension. Following this, I didn’t know what to do exactly, but I felt that I didn’t want to stop playing football. I went back to Heliopolis club playing in the fourth tier. It was like playing in a friendly tournament, we were all friends and knew each other.
I kept working hard trying to find a good chance. After I finished my studies and military service I found an opportunity in India playing for a team called Panjim Footballers, and this season I joined Sporting Clube de Goa, currently taking part in the Goa Professional League.
You played in a few different positions. What is your current position with Sporting de Goa?
My current position in India is a playmaker. I came here as a right winger, but the coach thought that I would perform better in my current position and he was actually right about that.
Tell us a bit about your performances since you came to India.
In India, with Panjim, I joined the team during the middle of the season as things are slow here when it comes to processing papers and registration. After being registered, I played ten matches, scored seven goals and produced five assists.
After the league, we played two matches in the cup, I scored four goals and made two assists.
An Egyptian playing in India is surely uncommon. How did you get the chance to play there in the first place?
Since we didn’t get to play football professionally for two years, the period that followed was not great too, as football clubs didn’t want to spend a lot of money since they barely made any during the suspension and clubs were afraid that the league might get suspended again. It was not a very stable period.
It was getting harder and harder to get a chance to play, so I just continued training at Heliopolis Club. Then there was a friendly tournament in Colombia and our club took part in it representing Egypt, competing against clubs from different countries. There I met an Indian agent who told me that he could get me a chance to play in India and I told him that all I care about is playing football, doesn’t matter where. This was in 2016. We started the talks and a year after, I came to India for a trial. Of course, my papers and registration took some time because of the system here but eventually it all worked out. I was supposed to join Sporting at first but since they already had three foreign players in their squad I wouldn’t be able to join them.
The owner, however, managed another club, which is Panjim, playing in the same pro league and offered me to go there on loan in February, and that’s what I did. When they noticed that I performed well with Panjim and managed to help them stay in the league, the owner decided that I should move to Sporting, who were the league champions last season. I am committed to a contract with them till the end of this season.
Regarding football in India, how do you currently see it? Explain to us your impressions about the Goa Professional League.
Football in India is developing so fast. They are trying to enhance sports in general and doing a good job about it. They have a lot of talents but no base or foundation. For example, they might be able to play football well in terms of skills but don’t have enough experience when it comes to strategy or tactics. This applies to players and the managers, that is something they are still working on. Clubs that develop faster are those who get foreign players and managers to work with their teams.
The pro League where I play is only in Goa. All clubs are aiming to play in the Indian I-League, one of the top football leagues in the country and Indian Super League, which shares the top spot in the Indian football league system with the I-League, the most popular and pays clubs well. It is a complicated system, to be honest. I am still learning about it every day.
Because of this randomness and rules, Sporting decided to leave the I-League and play in the Goa Professional League. It’s weird because there are teams that can play in both the Professional League and the I-League. They are trying to make things work better between all leagues, but the problem is that they are not coordinating together. They need more cooperation and better management.
How did it feel at first when you moved from Egypt to a completely different part of the world, and how does it feel now after settling in?
It was surely a weird feeling when I came here for the first time. I was very happy to be doing something I always wanted to do, which is to play football outside Egypt, but I was also afraid because I didn’t know how I will adapt in a new country. First, you feel a lot of homesickness but by the time you start reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, and what are the goals you want to achieve. This pushes you to continue the journey. But at first it was really tough and till now sometimes I feel I want to go back to Egypt and be close to my family, but I resist these thoughts by thinking about the fact that I am currently doing something I always dreamt of.
As for the Egyptian national team, do you think you’re ready to be followed by the team’s coaching staff and maybe get a chance to join the squad in the future?
No one will say that they are not ready to join the national team. Everyone wants this. I see that I am learning all the time, in India I learned how to be a playmaker, maybe I’m not ready to represent the national team as a playmaker but I can join the national team as a winger or back right. I still have a lot to learn for sure but joining the national team is always a dream for all of us, no one will deny that.
What is your most memorable achievement in your career so far? Could be a goal scored, a trophy won or even a match
For me, fighting every day and trying to play football professionally is my biggest achievement so far. Also, playing with Panjim in general and helping them stay in the league, scoring goals and producing assists was a great experience. This experience made me see how I managed to make a difference with the team and being named Man of the Match twice was special.
Who is the most influential person in your football career? Could be a coach, parents, friend, partner, etc.
My family are my biggest supporters. I was very young when I joined Wadi Degla and Telecom Egypt, I reached a point that I was fully independent at a young age, and they helped reach all that early on. Despite the problems that happened afterward and not finding chances to continue playing football they were backing me and helped me manage my life without having to quit football. We planned everything together and that was very important. Of course, they were worried and informed me about their thoughts, just like any parents in the world, but at the same time, they made sure we discuss all options to see what’s best for me. I also owe a lot to my close friends who never stop supporting me.
Who is your football idol and why?
My idol is Kaka. For me, he is a skillful player who plays a simple football. Back then, football was all about complicated skills, dribbling and showing off, but he was playing differently. He was like Zidan for example. He was an amazing football player and a marvellous human being.
What are your current ambitions with SCG? Where do you want your next stop to be?
I wish that I would do the same I did with Punjim. It’s not hard but it’s different. They are different in their playing style. I am the only foreign player there also so all eyes are on me. The club wants to see what I am adding to the team.
For my next step, I wish I would play in Europe. It’s completely different to be playing there for sure. And sometimes I feel I should go back to my country and play football there also. I look at the opportunities I get carefully and see how they can help me develop my potentials.
I want to be affecting those who are around me too. I am not playing football just for myself but I’m also representing my country. I wish I could do the same thing Salah is doing both on and off the field.
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