In a country where football is the number one sport and there are over 50 million Ahly fans, it was only normal that someone would eventually capitalize on this important, yet overlooked, market for sporting merchandise.
Huddled in one of Zamalek’s busiest streets, the red and white sign reads “Ahlawy 100% fan store, luring football fans into an intriguing, domestic experience of football cheer.
As you walk in, you are greeted by one of the store’s owners and given all the assistance you need for a complete football experience. Your attention, however, is instantly diverted to the products displayed in the store. From T-shirts and notebooks to coasters and key chains; this is a football fan’s dream come true.
Two soccer fans came up with the idea. They had always dreamed of setting up a “high-quality store for fans which conforms to international standards. Their passion for the game and devotion to “the red shirt (as Ahly fans call it) drove them and three others to invest in this project. The store was created as a private venture, independent of the Ahly club.
“We saw fan stores in Italy and England, as well as the merchandise of the last World Cup. It is important for a fan to find a way to express his love and belonging to the team. This can be done through a cap, T-shirt, scarf or notebook, Ahmed Soliman, 32-year-old entrepreneur and one of the five owners told The Daily Star Egypt.
Soliman and 26-year-old Yasmine Ashraf’s vision was finally realized after years of thinking and planning. The five young entrepreneurs collaborated and hired a designer from a multinational company who helped them with the brand’s logo. With the notion of “from the fans to the fans, the five thought of catchy slogans for the T-shirts, designs for notebooks and, most importantly, established contacts with the team’s players.
“We have a 360-degree approach of catering to the fans and we want to establish a relationship between the fans and the players. This is why we often invite the players to the store, where they can meet the fans and sign our merchandise, Soliman said.
What differentiates Ahlawy 100% from any other store is the quality and presentation of the products. Tarek Shiha of Skills Agency was behind the interior design, bringing the merchandise to life through wall-sized posters of each Ahly player behind the merchandise bearing his name.
“We assessed the best quality in the market and positioned our benchmark above that quality, Ashraf said.
Since the store’s trial opening on June 1, it garnered popularity in no time, through only an announcement on the social networking website Facebook and word of mouth.
Zeinab Adel, a 26-year-old financial analyst, who left the store after buying a T-shirt, key chain and cap said the store is “a great, innovative idea, with good prices and many choices. The great thing is that the players often come to meet their fans. At the end of this month, Ahly players as well as key figures in the sporting world will attend the formal opening.
The success it has achieved has resulted in a plan to expand the store’s merchandise and establish a new one in City Stars.
With a T-shirt priced at LE 120, the store is set to revolutionize the “look of Ahly fans at the stadium. Soliman admits that their target is the middle to upper class who will dare to wear something that says “Monopoly since 1907 (referring to the club’s 100-year history) or “6-1 (referring to the thrashing of Zamalek in 2002). Everything in the store caters to both men and women, with different T-shirt sizes and designs for each gender.
Mohamed Tawfik, a 25-year-old IT specialist, was especially impressed with a tiny red T-shirt for infants that read “Born to be Ahlawy.
“It will encourage me to have kids, he joked, “I love football and I think this is a great idea for fans to wear something that could show their team how important they are to them.
Ahlawy 100% Fan Store21 Ahmed Hishmat St.Zamalek