In the presence of the famous Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary, Wadi Degla club celebrated the opening of the first goalkeeping academy in the Arab and African region.
On the occasion of this prestigious event, Daily News Egypt interviewed the head of the academy, Maarten Arts, from the Netherlands.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I am the head of goalkeeping at Wadi Degla club, which means I am responsible for the first teams at Wadi Degla in Egypt and Lierse SK in Belgium. I am also responsible for the youth teams here and in football schools.
What is the most significant point of success you have achieved?
For 11 years I worked as a goalkeeping coach with the Dutch club FC Utrecht, which won the Dutch Cup (KNVB CUP) three times. Together, we won this cup for two consecutive years: 2003 and 2004.
The goalkeeper I trained for 10 years, Michel Vorm, is now playing for the English club Tottenham Hotspur and the Netherlands national team. I also worked with the Saudi national football team.
I made several DVDs and wrote books about goalkeeping. This is why I am invited to many countries to talk about my philosophy and techniques in goalkeeping, as it is different for most other cultures.
What is your most famous book?
What is your next conference?
In a week, I am heading to Miami to attend the goalkeeping coaches’ conference. There I am going to show how we are working at Wadi Degla and its new goalkeeping academy, as it is a unique project worldwide.
Why did you choose Wadi Degla for this responsibility?
I had a successful meeting with the president. We agreed that the level of goalkeeping in Egypt is very poor. So we wanted to raise the standards, not only by scouting goalkeepers, but also by training and coaching them.
There are many talented goalkeepers in Egypt, but unfortunately the coaching level is very poor. This is why we need also to raise the level of the coaches.
What about goalkeeping in other Arab countries?
Unfortunately, the standards across the Middle East are the same as Egypt, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where I had the chance to work.
When did you start scouting for this academy?
We started scouting from December 2015, concentrating on the best talents available, not only in Egypt but across Africa, including Kenya, where we already found someone, as well as Uganda. We are aiming to bring the most talented players in Africa to our academy.
We are developing our own goalkeepers for Wadi Degla and Lierse SK, so Wadi Degla will not need to buy goalkeepers.
Do you not have further ambitions for these players to play for international clubs?
Of course. Our aim is also to prepare goalkeepers to play at top European clubs. This is why, for instance, we look for tall goalkeepers so genetics play an important role.
When did the academy open and how many goalkeepers do you have now?
The academy opened on 1 January so we have been training for about five months. We now have ten goalkeepers in the academy.
How did you select these 10 goalkeepers?
Out of almost 1,000 goalkeepers we saw at several scouting events—mainly in Cairo but also in Damietta, Aswan and Luxor—we selected nine goalkeepers. We also scouted in Kenya and Uganda where we found one very talented player so far.
What criteria does the academy look for?
There are three criteria we look for. Firstly, the physical elements: how tall, how strong, how fast, and how explosive. Secondly, personality: whether he is a leader, if he’s courageous and performs well under pressure. Thirdly, the ability to learn: how quickly can goalkeepers translate new information to their game.
How is training going at the academy?
We are training according to European standards as we are aiming to sell the goalkeepers to European clubs or other clubs in Egypt. Lierse SK is especially important in this process as it is the door to Europe.
Why is this academy special?
It is the first of its kind in the Middle East and Africa. In the future, we hope to open a new academy in Kenya for all African talents.
We are working according the Pro Goal Method which I developed. The main theme is ‘attacking the ball’. We will deliver competent goalkeepers who have all the technical and tactical skills according to a high standard.
The age of the goalkeepers determines how long we can train them. By the age of 18, they should be ready. So a 14-year-old goalkeeper can be trained for four years, whereas a 17-year-old can only be trained for one year. So the younger they enter the academy the better.
What is your aim?
We are aiming for 12-16 goalkeepers. In the end, they should be selected for the first teams at Wadi Degla and Lierse SK, so we never have to buy goalkeepers again. Exceptional talents can be sold earlier to European top clubs.
Goalkeepers who are not good enough for Wadi Degla’s first team, will surely go to another good club in Egypt as they will still be the best in their age category.
I believe in a short time we can make difference. For example, in Egypt, goalkeepers can shoot the ball with one foot, but at our academy, in this short period, all goalkeepers can shoot the ball with both legs.
How are you planning to expand across the Middle East and Africa through this academy?
We are planning to scout in the entire Middle East. We are now here in Egypt as it is a big country with many fans who are crazy about football. So we are initially paying attention to Egypt, and then we are planning to found new academies, not only in Africa, but also in Europe. It is a long-term project, which I believe will be very successful.