CAIRO: “They’ve come really because the concept of ‘soccer without borders’ is one we all understand,” commented United States ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey.
Recently, the United States embassy in Cairo, with the help of the Egyptian Football Federation, recruited the help of the Soccer Without Borders organization to come to Egypt and hold soccer clinics throughout the country for coaches as well as young women.
“Our mission is to use soccer as a vehicle for positive change in the lives of marginalized youth,” said Mary McVeigh, a former All-American and assistant coach at Dartmouth College.
McVeigh was joined by fellow coach Ben Gucciardi, founder and director of Soccer Without Borders, to lead the workshops for the young Egyptian athletes as well as training sessions for Egyptian women’s football coaches and communicate through the universal language of sports.
In Cairo, the coaches clinic saw about 15-20 coaches participate in training sessions learning valuable coaching tips as well as ways to help women in Egypt participate and move forward in the football world both on and off the field.
In addition to the coaches, about 50 girls ages 12-24 joined in every day after the coaches’ clinic, learning various skills on the field to help improve their future in the game.
“The coaches were very welcoming and open to the new ideas we brought regarding coaching and team management approaches,” said McVeigh.
“All the players were energetic and anxious to learn more to improve,” she added.
Players were especially excited about the American coaches introducing something new and needed in the world of women’s soccer in Egypt.
“The players learned a lot about team spirit and working together as well as new skills that they can now improve upon,” said Mohamed Kamal, an Egyptian coach from the Wadi Degla Club who participated in the clinic along with some of his players.
He added that the clinic really helped the girls as well as the coaches to find new ways of bringing the players together and creating the biggest impact.
While not all of the programs carried out by the Soccer Without Borders organization are focused towards women, like the one held in Egypt, they are all geared towards a specific target population of youth who are in need of expanded opportunities, resources, and positive team environments.
Currently, Soccer Without Borders has six year round programs with two being female specific and the other four co-ed. The organization presently focuses primarily on two populations: refugees and girls.
In addition to Cairo, the clinic was also taken throughout Egypt to Qena, Alexandria and Ismailia to work with the women’s club teams in those cities as well.
“This program was a really positive experience and facilitated some cross-cultural connections and understanding that we will take with us in our future work in Egypt and beyond,” commented McVeigh.
“These events showed incredible commitment to furthering the goals for women’s soccer in this country and it’s been a pleasure to help make it a reality with our help,” she added.
The recent clinic was intended as a way for everyone involved to gain perspective on the current situation of women’s football in the country as well as to lay the groundwork for the future.
“We needed to gain an understanding of the most pressing needs of Egyptian women’s football and now we can figure our next steps to plan for the future,” said McVeigh.
The workshops that were held will be followed up and built upon with another round of women’s football workshops in June 2011, prior to the 2011 women’s World Cup.
The effort to improve the world of women’s soccer in Egypt comes about five years before Egypt is set to participate in the 2015 women’s World Cup.
“I think that the role of sports in the life of students is hugely important. What you learn in the classroom is obviously important for your life, but what you learn on the football field is also important because you learn about leadership, and about working as a team for one goal, and you develop your minds and your bodies together,” concluded Scobey.