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Ahly opens their first official merchandise store

Ahly marketing guru tells Ahram Online they plan for numerous merchandising projects all over the Arab world, besides the first store that just opened on Saturday in Mohandessein, Cairo

Hatem Maher , Monday 11 Apr 2011
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While the majority of Egyptian clubs struggle to pay the salaries of their players, Ahly moved to further boost their healthy financial position after establishing the first official fan store in the football-mad country.

The store was officially opened on Saturday in the Cairo neighbourhood of Mohandessin samid little media coverage, despite Ahly's huge popularity, given the political mayhem in Egypt, which dominates the people's everyday discussions.

The uncertainty over Egypt's political future has started to take its toll on the already-struggling clubs, the majority of whom face legal action from angry players over unpaid wages.

But Ahly, the most successful club in Egypt's history with more than 70 domestic titles, are also playing in a league of their own off the pitch.

Free of the persistent financial difficulties which blight their opponents (including arch-rivals Zamalek) Ahly, is looking to take further steps forward to lay the cornerstone for a possible invasion into other markets, such as the Gulf.

"Establishing that store is a very important step towards increasing the club's revenues," Ahly marketing director Adly El-Qayei, a long-serving club employee and the architect of their big-name signings, told Ahram Online on Sunday.

"We have many other plans and projects which we are looking to fulfil in the coming period. We will build many other stores and cafés in the country.”

"We are also looking to explore the Arab Gulf market," El-Qayei added, referring to Ahly's large fan base in the region.

Ahly's store includes everything a fan could want, 21-year-old student Michael Magdy told Ahram Online in an enthusiastic tone.

"There are football kits, t-shirts, chairs, mugs and many other things with Ahly's logo stamped on them," said Magdy, an ardent Ahly supporter.

The store also includes a section for Ahly's football icons, including the t-shirts of 1983 African player of the year, Mahmoud El-Khatib, and the club's late president, Saleh Selim.

Piracy problem

The Red Devils for long hoped to set up an official store but their efforts were impeded by the constant piracy and copyrights problem in Egypt, as ordinary fans tend to turn a blind eye on quality as long as they get products affiliated with Ahly's name.  

They used to snub Ahly's official t-shirts and buy the cheaper and unofficial jerseys, which are abundant in an Egyptian market that hardly complies with principles and rules managing trading.

But Magdy believes that trend will vanish.

"Ahly fans will be looking to benefit their club because the prices are not expensive in the store. Different classes will be able to buy the t-shirts, which are affordable at 120, 150 and 200LE," he said.

El-Qaeyi also said Ahly are determined to tackle that problem with the help of Egyptian authorities.

"We filed lawsuits against the violators and some of them were even sent to jail for their illegal replicas," he concluded.

The rest of the Egyptian Premier League clubs are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the popular uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Zamalek, Ahly's traditional competitors and current league leaders, saw several of their players threaten to file a complaint to the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) over late salaries.

Players of Alexandria-based club Ittihad said they might boycott training if they are not paid.

Ahly are on course to come through the turmoil unscathed. "I'm proud to be Ahlawy (Ahly supporter)," Magdy said fondly.

The store is located on Mohie el Din Abu el Ezz Street.

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