When she found herself stuck to practice with football academies for guys, and a limited number of girl players, young footballer Farida Salem took it upon herself to establish her very own girls only football academy, and worked until this dream came to life.
Not as a part time job, hobby, or an alternative back-up plan, football and the academy are the real deal for Farida. It’s why she chose to study sports health and physical education abroad, studied how to play, coach, and judge eleven different sports, and then become both the founder and the captain of Empower Football Academy.
“I was persistent with football because I had an emotional attachment to it. I learned to play when I was twelve or fourteen years old. It was an important time in my life. A lot of things happened and affected me psychologically, but football was the escape that got me through,” says the twenty-five-year-old.
Since passion was Farida’s main drive, she made sure it’s the academy’s main goal to ensure that footballers are passionate enough.
“I believe this is important because if we’re not passionate about something, why bother doing it in the first place?” she adds.
Farida stresses that passion is the motive that will enable people to continue moving forward. “If we convince people that there are many things to be passionate about other than education, we’ll be able to change a lot of things around us,” Farida says.
Farida’s step for change was through the uniqueness of the methods within projects her academy offers such as private and group trainings, extracurricular programs in schools, coach teams and tailored programs catering to the needs of footballers. They are also announcing the mentorship program for young coaches soon, to inspire them to use new methods of coaching and avoid any kind of coach-player bullying.
“The abuse can be emotional as well like their feedback or lack of feedback can be very hurtful for a player. I was once told, “Enty homara” when I was playing basketball and I quit. The coach humiliated me in front of the entire school for missing the winning shot,” Farida explains.
Despite the fact that the academy takes girls only, male coaches are allowed as the academy believes Egyptian coaches in general need education, guidance and support. Yet, Farida insists that her trainees are girls only opposing all the negative criticism.
“I used to counter argue asking, do you think that girls have the same opportunities as guys? The answer is always no and this is why I’m insisting on making it for girls, and girls only,” she illustrates.
Stereotyping football as a game for guys is another issue that Farida fights against. “I don’t believe that there’s a specific game for guys or girls only. I believe that sports are for everyone. I’ve seen this when I played around the world and did not find any discrimination between girls and guys in football, and I think this should be here in Egypt too,” Farida adds.
She also expressed her frustration with the male teams dominating the football arena in Egypt. However, she understands this might be the case because clubs acknowledge the amount of effort and investment they have to put to launch their women’s teams, especially that they see our girls national team outside of international ranking. Or at least that’s how she makes peace with it.
Establishing the academy itself as her sole job was challenging for Farida, since people’s comments were not at all encouraging. Some thought it would not be of profit, others believed she’s pursuing a dead-end sport. “I had great self-doubt. I thought of leaving the country and felt like I cannot do this here, I’m going back to canada,” she adds.