Bikinis are not mandatory at all women beach volleyball games, as Doaa El-Ghobashi will accompany Nada Moawad when Egypt takes on Germany on Sunday in their first ever appearance in the Olympic Games.
The two Egyptian women will be able to wear what they want during one of the most watched disciplines at the Olympics. One will even play veiled, thanks to a late decision by the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) after a request from African Volleyball Confederation (CAVB) chairman Dr. Amr Elwany from Egypt.
"To you your Way, and to me mine," Doaa recites a verse from the Quran's Al-Kafirun chapter, stating she is participating in a sporting event and not a modeling gala, adding that she "double-checked the outfit freedom in this sport before agreeing to join".
El-Ghobashi revealed to Ahram Online that she "felt different" being stared at during her participation in the 2015 Mediterranean Beach Games in Italy last September, but felt confident sticking to her "Islamic outfit".
Veiled or not, Doaa and Nada have already made history as they claimed Egypt's first berth in beach volleyball tournaments, and are also are the first ever women's team to reach the Olympics.
They were picked by coach Ahmed Abdallah from Egypt's women's volleyball team travelling to represent Egypt at Rio.
Road to Rio
It was a very long road to Brazil as the team was ranked 15th in Africa ahead of the African Volleyball Confederation's Continental Cup in Abuja last April.
But the women had a dream and believed in it.
"Let me use Upper Egypt's saidi expression; 'Our girls were men in Nigeria'. The girls were really reliable, responsible, and enthusiastic," says coach Abdallah.
In the first round, Egypt were in a tough group alongside Morocco, Rwanda, Namibia and Mozambique, beating them all except third-seeded Rwanda.
"It was a hell of a group. Morocco are the title holders, Namibia's team members live in Germany and have their preparations there, even Mozambique is a tough opponent," El-Ghobashi said.
In the Cup's semifinals, the Pharaohs played hosts Nigeria, managing to overcome them 2-1.
Reaching the final for the first time, the Egyptians tasted revenge, defeating Rwanda 2-0 to claim gold.
Lack of practice
Doaa and Nada will have a tough mission in Rio as they have been placed in Group D alongside Germany, Italy and Canada, all experienced and strong opponents.
However, they are determined to make their mark: "Losing with only two points difference in the semifinals of the indoors qualifiers killed my dream to play in Rio. But beach volleyball was my second chance to prove our worth at the Olympics," says Moawad.
The Pharaohs may have bested all of their opponents in Africa, but they have never truly competed outside their own continent.
"We [Egypt] are the rulers of the continent in volleyball, but Rio will be our first challenge outside the continent," said Nada.
Nada, Doaa, alongside teammates and possible substitutes Farida El-Askalany and Randa Radwan have had several training camps in Cairo, Port Said and Spain.
"We don't have a real beach volleyball competition in Africa. We are looking forward to playing as many friendly matches as we can with teams from outside the continent before we go to the Olympics," El-Ghobashi said.
They play their opening game at Rio on 7 August against Germans Ludwig and Walkenhorst, two days before meeting Italians Menegatti and Orsi Toth. They will end the group stage on 11 August against Canada's Broder and Valjas.
Regulations say the top two teams from each of the six groups will advance directly to knock-out matches along with the top two third-placed teams. The final four third-placed teams will play off for the last two berths.
"We are doing our best in practice and we are fully focused to make a very honorable representation" Nada concluded. "We don't want to be easy opponents in Rio," Doaa added.
Additional reporting: Rawan Ezzat
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