VIU recruits Egyptian soccer players

January 29th, 2014


Farida Amr El Sheshingy will be joining the VIU Mariner Women's soccer program next season. She is from Egypt and is looking forwards to making her dream come truse combining her education with playing soccer ....


VIU opens pipeline for Egyptian soccer talent

Mariners men's soccer coach travels to Egypt in search of top players at camp


Josh Aldrich / Daily News
January 22, 2014

Aly Adeeb comes from a part of the world where you either play soccer or you pursue an education, there is no combining of the two.

The Egyptian national originally started out on a soccer path — playing two years professionally — but coming from a family of wealth, he was pressured to continue his schooling.

But he was not ready to give up his dreams of playing soccer.

That search landed him at Vancouver Island University this year, gaining attention through a college scouting camp in his home country.

Now his goal is to open the same door for others from Egypt.

For this year's tournament he made sure VIU Mariners head coach Bill Merriman was invited to take part, and athletic director Bruce Hunter came along to help spread the message of VIU to all potential students.

"Egypt has a lot of talented players and we don't all get that opportunity. I got that chance and I think others should get it too," said the skilled right-winger, who plays on the Egyptian U-20 national team. "Everyone has a dream and everyone deserves that chance."

Soccer in Egypt is very much a class-designated sport. If you come from a well off family, you almost certainly will go to university to study. Most of their soccer players, however, do not come from the country's upper crust. Many come from poverty or, at the very least, the lower middle class, where education is not an option.

"Talent is a God-given thing, it doesn't matter if you're rich or you're poor, so why would you waste your talent just because you're rich?" said Adeeb, 18, who will also be playing with the U-21 Mid-Isle Highlanders this year. "You can do two things, you can get your education and you can play soccer. That's how I sold people on Canada."

Adeeb is currently enrolled in the business program at VIU, but will be changing to a film studies major this year. His family is heavily involved in the movie and entertainment industry in Egypt.

He was one of two Egyptian players to join VIU this past season, joined by Youssef Ahmed. After playing professionally in Belgium at 16 and in Egypt at 17, Adeeb originally had planned to go to Simon Fraser University to play for the Clan, but he did not have the marks to get in.

A deeper search led him to VIU. It was not an easy transition on the field, however. It took Adeeb most of the season to really feel comfortable.

The Mariners focus much more on a tactical style of football than what is preached back in Egypt.

Also, there is a much larger emphasis placed on fitness, something which proved to be a shock to a number of the Mariners imports this year.

"They think 'I'll just come here and play,' and they get their eyes opened very quickly," said Merriman.

"It's a good level of football we play here."

Merriman, who has coached VIU to three medals at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championships in the past four years, is always on the lookout for more talent.

Most Pacific Western Athletic Association programs have several foreign players on their rosters to augment the rest of their homegrown talent.

The M's also had star midfielder Farhad Abdulgani of Norway and Iraq, British striker David Durant, and Brazilian Renan Rebelatto seeing major playing time this year.

But no one in Canada has really tapped into Egypt, yet.

Most players who leave Egypt go to the U.K. or the U.S. Even with the name of the tournament - Road to the States - overlooks Canada as a potential landing spot for these athletes. It's something Merriman wants to change.

"If we can get this kind of a pipeline. .. the level will get higher and we'll start to see some very good players come over," he said.

Adeeb says VIU's anonymity is a thing of the past in Egypt now.

"Everyone is wowed by VIU, everyone wants to come to VIU," said Adeeb, noting his cousin is at the top of that list. "They know that sports might not be a career, but it can get you a career."

They flew into Cairo on Dec. 29, and stayed in the country until Jan. 10. While in Cairo, they stayed with Adeeb's family, in their large, luxurious house with the Great Pyramids practically in their back yard. After a few days, they travelled to Hurghada, by the Red Sea, for the tournament, where they stayed with Ahmed's family.

The tournament featured eight international high schools, each with a boys team and four with girls teams.

They played a round robin tournament with 25-minute halves over six days.

From that, the Mariners appear to have locked up the tournament's MVP - Yassin Amrnayel - and top goalie - Omar Younis.

This was also a big opportunity for the school to put itself out there as a viable option for regular students.

Being a student recruiter for VIU was a new role for Hunter, but he believes he made a big impact in the schools he visited and has already heard back from people interested in enrolling.

He sold the university on its ideal location, affordable tuition, class sizes and climate. But he also stressed their large international student base, currently sitting at around 1,600.

"The Middle East is not a huge market for us at the moment, but that was one of the reasons this was a great opportunity for us to go there," said Hunter. "I view it as an emerging market for VIU, there's a lot of students there looking for study abroad opportunities, that up to this point didn't have VIU as one of their front page options."

They all returned Nanaimo with a greater appreciation of what we have available to us.

They experienced the culture and many of the sites of the country for two weeks. They saw a devastated tourism industry due to the political uprisings over the last few years, but Merriman said they never felt unsafe or even uneasy.

"They treated us like royalty," he said.

The soccer community was also hit hard by the uprisings, and to this day their professional teams play in empty stadiums to prevent demonstrations and riots from occurring, though that is set to end soon.

Merriman also had a tour of the Egyptian FIFA offices, and spent a lot of time talking with Sahar El Haway about trying to build the women's game in the region.

That is part of why this tournament is important to the organizers, a group of five high-level soccer players - Mohamed Mosen, Adel Sherif, Omar El Hawary, Youssef Fawaz and Adel Saad - all between the ages of 23 and 25.

They returned to their homeland to rebuild the game. For Merriman, the entire trip was inspiring.

"People need to realize how lucky we are," he said. "Egypt is a great place, but we complain too much. .. "It definitely changed the way I look at things. I might step back a little myself and relax more."