First rugby action in Egypt

Abeer Anwar , Saturday 24 Feb 2018

After years of waiting, an Egyptian rugby federation has been founded and will start with the El Gouna Open

File photo of Egypt's Rugby team (Ahram)

Egypt recently joined the African Rugby Federation set up 45 years ago. In an exclusive interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Hossam Saheb, president of the newly created Egyptian Rugby Federation, explains how the new body came about.

“Rugby as a sport started in Egypt a long time ago but was played only by foreigners, the French and British citizens, but nine years ago we introduced the idea of a new federation to Hassan Sakr, the minister of sports at the time, but the idea was postponed.

“But in 2016 rugby became an Olympic sport in Rio de Janeiro. At that time we decided that we have to fight to have our dream come true and we did,” Saheb said.

The Egyptian federation was established in April last year along with the efforts of Qais Al-Zaali, head of the Arab Rugby Federation, who met top Egyptian officials to try to persuade them. “Just seven months later, Egypt’s national team collected the silver medal in the Arab Rugby Championship in Jordon with the participation of 10 teams,” added Saheb. Now the Egyptian Rugby Federation has five men’s teams and seven for women.

He said the federation decided to open a number of academies in several clubs, where they normally train football coaches, to teach the rules of rugby to attract the largest number of players to the sport. The Egyptian federation is also spreading awareness of the game to international schools all over the country to attract more fans.

Saheb said El Gouna will host Egypt’s first rugby open on 11-12 May with the sponsorship of El Gouna resort together with the Egyptian Youth and Sports Ministry and the Arab Rugby Federation. The signing of the championship’s contract was at a press conference held last week at the National Olympic Committee.

“I hope to see El Gouna Open developing quickly to become one of the top opens in the world like the Hong Kong and Dubai sevens which witnessed the participation of 300 teams. We are targeting 12 men’s teams and eight women’s teams at El Gouna. Bahrain, Indonesia, Germany, France and Ireland have confirmed their participation, and registration is open until the end of March,” Saheb said.

Rugby football usually refers to rugby union or rugby league, which are both team sports, rugby union originating at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, and rugby league originating in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, after splitting and forming the Northern Union in 1896 (what is now known as rugby league). The first rugby match in North America was played between McGill University and Harvard University. The champion of the match between both McGill and Harvard received the Covo cup. Currently New Zealand is the best team in the world standings.

The Greeks and Romans are known to have played many ball games, some of which involved the use of the feet. The Roman game harpastum is believed to have been adapted from a Greek team game known as episkyros. These games appear to have resembled rugby football.

In 1871, English clubs met to form the Rugby Football Union (RFU). In 1892, after charges of professionalism (compensation of team members) were made against some clubs for paying players for missing work, the Northern Rugby Football Union, usually called the Northern Union (NU), was formed. The existing rugby union authorities responded by issuing sanctions against the clubs, players, and officials involved in the new organisation. After the schism, the separate clubs were named “rugby league” and “rugby union”.

Rugby football (both league and union) is one of many versions of football played in English public schools in the 19th century, along with association football. Although rugby league initially used rugby union rules, they are now wholly separate sports. In addition to the two existing codes, both codes of Gridiron football (American football and Canadian football) have evolved from rugby football, but themselves are completely different sports altogether.

*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly  

Short link: