CAIRO: With a pleasant welcoming smile Mayar Abdel-Aziz, the first female spokesperson for a football club in Egypt (El Gouna) warmly receives journalists and provides them with all the contacts and information they need about the club.
“I never saw myself in this position, especially in football, she said.
In Egypt, football is strictly a men’s world. Egypt’s popular premier league is a field dominated by men. But thanks to Abdel-Aziz, this is gradually changing.
She has worked for Orascom Hotels and Development, owner of El Gouna FC, since 2000. She’s now the vice president of the marketing department and is responsible for promoting the new touristic cities the company owns.
El Gouna, one of these cities, celebrated its 20th anniversary with the promotion of its football team to the Egyptian premier league, a first for a Red Sea governorate club.
“The football team is an important part in the marketing of the city; given the massive fan base football has in Egypt. We’ve realized the importance of forming this team and the significance of its promotion to the premier league, Abdel-Aziz said
Following the team’s promotion, the club held a meeting to discuss the future plans for the team and appointed Abdel-Aziz as the spokesperson for the team.
“They agreed that they need someone to coordinate with the press. especially that the team is attracting media’s interest, as it represents the Red Sea governorate for the first time and is linked to a prominent company in the Egyptian market, Orascom, she said.
“It is a new challenge for me and I believe it is a very lively field with a massive number of followers; especially that I come from a professional background in tourism which is confined to certain activities and dealing with certain people, Abdel-Aziz said.
“I am very happy to be part of something that enjoys all this public interest, she added.
Although Abdel-Aziz doesn’t claim any knowledge of football, she believes she has a precise role in coordinating information between different aspects of the club’s administration, such as sports, constructions and social life, for easy communication with the press.
“Football isn’t my profession; at first I didn’t know how I can help but when I started dealing with people, I found everybody caring and enthusiastic about their work and everyday there was something new so I hope I can help them avoid the burden of communicating with a lot of parties so that they can focus on their technical work, she said.
Egypt has gone a long distance in integrating women in all aspects of football. It now has a women s football league that produced a national team competing in international and pan-Arab championships.
Sahar El-Hawwary was the first female member of the Egyptian Football Association, and thanks to her work Egypt now has a number of female referees like Hanan Khalid.
However, Abdel-Aziz is the first woman to penetrate the world of men’s football in Egypt.
“I don’t see any differences between men and women in anything; it’s all about your qualifications. If you are able to do the job, whether a man or a woman, you will succeed. But if I always think about the difficulties and complexities of each job, I will end up avoiding many things even more difficult than football, she said.
“It became a stereotype that football is for men only and I believe they will always be the majority in it. Women will never prevail in such a field because each field has its unique qualifications; however, I am not going to play, I have a certain task to accomplish, she added.
Still, a spokesperson for a football club is a demanding and tiring job and many of Abdel-Aziz’s male counterparts can attest to that, especially when it comes to dealing with a wide range of journalists with different backgrounds and attitudes.
“I believe that the press can write what it wants. My role is to provide them with the information as raw data in order to reach the readers and it stops at this point. Journalists are free to use this information in their own style, Abdel-Aziz said.
As the league progresses and the competition gets fiercer, information is twisted and accusations are thrown in every direction. El Gouna, being owned by a businessman, is expected to be a topic for allegations and rumors of match fixing.
However, Abdel-Aziz expects problems and she has a plan to deal with such situations.
“The thing that will annoy me is twisting what I say and that’s why I will stick to documents, she said
Although El Gouna is a pioneer in appointing the first spokeswoman, the club has no plans to establish a women’s team.