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Friday, 21 September 2018

Egypt’s American football begins new season

The 2018 season of the Egyptian League of American Football got underway at the Maadi Olympic Centre in Cairo

Inas Mazhar , Friday 23 Feb 2018
Egypt’s American football players
Maadi Olympic Centre in Cairo (Photo: Ahram Hebdo)
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The fourth edition of the Egyptian League of American Football (ELAF) saw the MSA Tigers securing the first win of the season by beating the Cairo Warriors 20-6 in the opening match. The Tigers managed a last-minute touchdown in the fourth quarter, their first official touchdown as a team.

The AUC Titans ended Round 1 of the Egyptian Federation of Football League (EFFL) games with a remarkable performance on the field, beating the Cairo Hell Hounds 26-2 with their unstoppable offence while the Cairo Warriors showed they are one of the best teams in the league as they blanked the Cairo Bears 20-0.

Games taking place this Saturday sees the Tigers taking on the Thunders, the Eagles clashing with the Hounds and the Wolves vs the Titans. The games, which will all be held at the Maadi Olympic Centre, will start at 1:30pm, 3:55pm and 8:45pm respectively.

The league tournament which runs until 11 May sees the participation of 700 male and female players, representing the nine clubs which are members of the Egyptian Federation of American Football (EFAF): GUC Eagles, Cairo Wolves, Cairo Hell Hounds, Cairo Warriors, Cairo Bears, MSA Tigers, Gezira Thunders and the AUC Titans. Each comprises a men’s and women’s team. The competition also sees the participation of four professional US players as well as three US head coaches.

According to EFAF President Amr Hebo, the ELAF has been very successful in the past three years.

“Actually it has been so impressive since its beginning almost three years ago. Now, we are celebrating the launch of the fourth edition and we are really proud with the increase in the number of the participating teams and players. It’s really growing bigger and bigger every year. The participation of 700 players in this season’s league proves remarkable success.”

Hebo thanked the partners who have contributed to promoting the sport in Egypt, especially officials of the Maadi Olympic Centre, aiming for an increase in the number of participants in future seasons.

ELAF was founded in 2013 by Momen Naim. It is the governing body of American football in Egypt and is responsible for all regulatory, competition, performance and development aspects of the game.

Egypt was granted full membership in the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) on 15 July 2014 at the IFAF congress in Kuwait. Also, the then president of EFAF Momen Naim became IFAF Africa vice chair. EFAF has already held three seasons since 2015 with the fourth season currently underway.

American football has been around in Egypt in an unofficial capacity since 2007. The sport was then adopted by a chain of sports clubs which, due to the uprising of the 25 January of 2011 and economic instability, chose to suspend the programme indefinitely. However, that did not discourage a group of young lovers of the sport.

EFAF was founded in December 2014 by Abdel-Rahman Hafez, Ali Rafik and Hebo. It is a socially responsible organisation seeking the expansion, popularisation and development of American football in Egypt, in both its tackle and flag formats. Faced with the challenges of introducing the culture, ethics and values of the sport, a complete systemic approach was the foundation of the vision, offering constructive training programmes and competitions for youth as well as seasoned athletes.

A football academy for all age groups was set up as a pillar for learning the basics of American football and therefore, evolve the knowledge of the sport. Coaching and referees clinics hosted by experienced football individuals and experts to ensure proper education on all levels and consistency of performance throughout our activities.

The GUC Eagles was founded in 2011 with one main goal: to spread the values of the sport among other young people.

The team existed along with another handful of amateur teams that played on a friendly basis until 2013 when Egypt joined the IFAF and formed an Egyptian national team which was to play Morocco for a spot at the American Football World Cup.

The Eagles had the lion’s share of participants in the national team. Unfortunately, Egypt lost that game, but at least the EFAF was formed.

The GUC Eagles are the current defending champions of the ELAF; in fact, they are three-time champions. They have won every title and won every game since the competition started in 2015.

This year, under the leadership of veteran head coach Thomas Cudney, the Eagles are looking to maintain their legacy as the most dominant team in Egypt but still cautious that the competition might have another say in the matter.

It has become apparent that American football is here to stay. With a rapid uptake by both athletes and fans, doubling the number of men’s teams in three years as well as establishing eight women’s teams in two years, there is no doubt that the sport has captured the interest of Egyptian youth.

*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly 

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