INTERVIEW: TUT FC, changing Egypt’s outlook on football
In an interview with TUT FC founder Ali Elbeshbishy, we discuss this forward-thinking brand new club that is changing perspectives in Egyptian football.
Tutankhamun Football Club, most commonly referred to as TUT FC, is an Egyptian football team founded in 2019, currently playing in the fourth tier of Egyptian football after being recognized by the Egyptian Football Association. The club have a unique philosophy among Egyptian football clubs: the innovative use of technology and giving back to the community.
TUT FC – The Origins
In January 2019, Ali Elbeshbishy and around 10 of his friends, whom he claims were “great players back in the day”, had decided to choose the ‘easier path’ rather than trying to pursue playing football as a career, so he suggested that they should all do both: work from nine-to-five and then train after.
Elbeshbishy went on to tutor during his final year of university at Virginia Tech in the United States, in order to raise the money needed to afford all the expenses to fund the club. But after all this effort, only one of his friends showed up to the first training session. This prompted Ali to change his vision: gearing the club towards the community; those who really wanted an opportunity but weren’t as privileged.
Elbeshbishy told KingFut: “After staffing the whole thing, in the first training session only one came out of 12, so I was sad and I said to myself why should I spend my money on these people when they’re not committed? While (there are others) who might not be as privileged, let me do good for the community.”
Ali Elbeshbishy eventually founded the club with three co-founders, Youssef Eid, Sobhy Farahat, and Egypt U-23 national team star Taher Mohamed. They decided to target Shubra Al Khaymah, which Ali believes has “many hidden talents in such crowded communities.” On the first day of trials, six players showed up, but thanks to word of mouth, over hundreds of players eventually came out to their training sessions, from different parts of Cairo, out of which they selected 30 to join the team.
“The key here was patience,” said Elbeshbishy. “It was word of mouth, when people came to tryouts, they start talking about it.”
“In total there was a list of a thousand players (who ended up) showing up to tryouts week,” he added.
“We were looking for players who are compatible with the philosophy of football we wanted to play. They have to understand that it’s not just a workout or two-hour training sessions, it’s a lifestyle.”
The Current Setup
To Elbeshbishy, TUT FC is more than just a football club, he believes it’s a family, providing the team with housing and food when necessary. The team train daily together, but on their seventh day of each week, instead of giving the players a complete day off, they give them what they call a “Lecture Day”. During Lecture Day, the players sit down with the coaches to discuss tactics or even their own personal lives with a ‘sports life coach’, in order to improve their mentalities going into games.
“The lectures focus on physical as well as mental health and enrich the players’ hearts, brains and souls with positive energy. We’ve reached a point where we learned how to win the game before even starting it, with the proper mindset,” said Elbeshbishy.
As of now, the club consists of around 50 people working around the first team with the oldest being 27 years old. Around 30 players, seven coaching staff members, one fitness coach, one sports life coach and one data scientist are present within the club’s setup.
One of TUT FC’s biggest eye-catchers is their commitment to technology. As stated before, the club have a data scientist as part of their staff; Elbeshbishy stressed the importance of this role: “We’re in 2020 and data is pivotal in any business nowadays, and therefore I wanted to implement it early on in his philosophy at the club as I believe it is the future of the club.”
“TUT FC is a next-generation football club in the heart of Egypt, with its edge being the integration of the most advanced technology into the football industry.” – Ali Elbeshbishy
“One thing that is very important and that has to mentioned: we have to look back and consult with the coaches if the output is viable because the technology has not reached the point where it takes emotional or environmental factors as data points.”
In order to make the most of data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), TUT FC partnered up with IBM and using their Watson products in order to get an advantage on the pitch. They feed the machine data and information about several different aspects of their games such as scores, formations, opponents and more. The machine gets an understanding of teams based on these data points, which then enables it to give the team valuable insights about various aspects building up to the game. Elbeshbishy wanted to make it clear that AI is used to assist their decisions and not decide for them, because the machine is yet to understand human factors (such as emotional stress or pitch condition for example).
“We’re all young and excited about where this technology and this sport is going together.” – Ali Elbeshbishy
“We all know that at some point (this technology) will be as important as sport life and fitness coaches are”.
TUT FC divided their debut season into two halves. The first would be used to collect data and feed their AI (since it can’t provide insights without information of prior results), so that when the second round of fixtures arrived it would allow them to get insights from it. They were able to witness the advantages AI gave their team: in the first 10 games of the season they were only able to win five games, while drawing twice and losing three, but they ended their season with 28 out 30 points available from the last 10. They attribute the second round’s results to the machine’s findings, which allowed the managerial staff to consider different options and pull off numerous upsets.
TUT FC believes that they have nothing to lose, and nothing but enthusiasm and excitement when it comes to pioneering new technologies in the Egyptian game, and believe that one day they will be essential to every football team.
Taher Mohamed’s Role
Egypt U-23 international midfielder Taher Mohamed Taher, who’s been heavily-linked with a move to Al Ahly, has a unique involvement with TUT FC which revolves around the human aspect of the club rather than the technological side. To most players in the team, he is an inspiring figure, who reminds them that with hard work they can make it professionally.
“Taher is helping motivate our players, he is a living proof that you can make it if you focus on the sport and are committed. He has the exact mindset we are looking for in our players: not just very skilled on the pitch, but well aware of the development of football globally like AI.”
Taher commits his free time to the club, attending all the practice sessions and games that do not overlap with his professional duties.
“It is an honour for the club to be associated with his big name in the football industry.” – Elbeshbishy on Taher
Elbeshbishy went on to add that Taher is a player that is very interested in the data aspect of the game, and shares their vision about data and technology being the future of football. Although he doesn’t get into the technical aspect of it, he is always interested in understanding the analysis and see how it could benefit the team.
His presence gives more credibility to the project and the club, as per Elbeshbishy, they are honoured to have him on board because of his eagerness to give whatever he can to the club.
TUT FC – Looking Ahead
TUT FC hope to be able to make an impact on a the families and players involved in the project in order to try and make life more enjoyable to all those involved. “In general success is not just about results on the pitch or money and investors pouring in, it’s about touching on an industry and making it slightly better than when we found it,” said Elbeshbishy.
After finishing 2nd in their debut season, they’re planning to at least get to the second division within the coming five years, but they understand that making it to the first division is a resource draining task, so once they get to the second division they will look to adjust accordingly.
When it comes to their long-term goals away from the pitch, TUT FC hopes to one day create a football school which would encompass all the values they have and live by in the current first team. They believe that an educated player is much more effective in everything they do, be it on or off the pitch.
KingFut have announced a partnership with TUT FC and look forward to covering the club’s journey climbing the Egyptian football pyramid.
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