Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1144, 18 - 24 April 2013

Ahram Weekly

Competitive croquet

 The World Cup of the sport starts Sunday in Cairo, Ahmed Hamdi reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Just three days remain before the croquet World Cup kicks off in Cairo on the fields of Al-Gezira Sporting Club, Shooting Club, and Al-Gezira Youth Centre. The tournament will last for one week and is a singles open, which means separate men’s and women’s competitions. The Egyptian capital will host 40 foreign players from South Africa to New Zealand as they take part in the tournament. “We are trying to send a message to the world that Egypt is safe and that’s how we link sports to tourism,” said Amir Ramsis, head of both the Egyptian and international croquet federations. Ramsis, who has been in charge of the Egyptian federation for 12 years, ensured the safety of all the foreign participants despite the unsettling times Egypt is experiencing following the 2011 revolution which toppled the government. “We spoke to the Ministry of Sports and they asked us to get the approval of the Ministry of Interior to secure the tournament and they kindly agreed,” Ramsis said. “Anyway, croquet is not football and it doesn’t have that big mass of fans,” he added.
All foreign participants will be accommodated in hotels in the Zamalek area which is considered fairly safe and far from any street clashes. “We had a tournament here last November and everyone came and left very happy,” Ramsis told Al-Ahram Weekly. “We always make sure they are away from any violence,” he added.
Regarding the tournament, Ramsis expressed optimism that the national team would make an impact “and become champions as they have always been”. The state has been supporting the sport, Ramsis said, despite the weak annual injection of money. “Twelve years in the business and I never asked the state for something and it was refused. They’ve always supported us in our tournaments abroad, paying all the expenses,” he added.
The federation has given much support to the national team prior to the tournament. “We are now holding a training camp that started on the first of this month and ends by the start of the tournament,” said national team coach Khaled Younis. The camp, which has the 14 players who will represent Egypt, is being held at Al-Gezira Youth Centre under the watchful eye of Younis. The players are a mixture of young exploding talents and experienced players. “Of those who will represent the Pharaohs, the Nasr brothers Ahmed and Mohamed hold combined three World Cup titles,” Younis said. Other names that Younis has confidence in their abilities are Sherif Nafea, Hisham Abu Esbaa’, Hami Eryan, Amr Al-Ebyari, and Amr Baher. Only two ladies from Egypt will participate in the tournament, Soha Mustafa, the number one player in Egypt, and Shadin Okasha.
Although the training camp is doing well, focussing on the main skills and tactics, Younis expresses concerns about having the tournament played on home territory. “Psychologically, that might have a reverse effect on the focus of our players,” explains Younis. “When we play abroad, the players become totally focussed on the game but here it will be hard for the players to separate themselves from their own personal lives.” Nevertheless, having the World Cup played in Egypt has some advantages as well. “The players have total knowledge of the playing fields, the balls, the atmosphere and weather unlike when we play abroad,” Younis said. But the Egyptian coach has criticised the near to none media coverage of the sport “even though we’ve had world champions for eight years.”
Mustafa, the current No 1 and winner of the Cup of Egypt with her team Nasr City, criticised the scant media coverage. Still, the Egyptian champion has expressed her hope of winning the World Cup considering it as a dream for her. The young woman who sees her best moments being the ones when she gets crowned champion, has told the Weekly that her dreams do not stop at that but go on to being ranked number one in the world.
Mustafa does not see the upcoming World Cup that easy to get. “The tournament is really difficult and is full of very good players from Egypt and abroad and several World Cup champions,” Mustafa said. “But I train every day and hope that God brings out the best in me,” she added in faith.
The 23-year-old started playing croquet 11 years ago at Al-Shams Club. She has been crowned numerous times, including three consecutive Cairo Cup wins. Mustafa is hoping to add another gold medal to her collection. Where better to do that than in her country? Mustafa said she was happy to be playing in Cairo. “God willing, Egypt will win this tournament,” she said carrying the hopes of her coach, federation and country.

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