Youth in Egypt
Today, the Egyptian hockey federation is giving teenagers in the age group 15 to 19 much more care than they did before. This age, between 15&19, is considered as the "youth" age, which resembles the most important period of creating a good hockey player. Youth are the fuel of hockey in Egypt; they demonstrate the future, and improving their hockey skills would create a powerful national team for Egypt very soon.
But, Egyptian youths face some problems, which need to be solved urgently, so that these problems do not impede the process of Egyptian hockey development. These problems happen due to many reasons, including the Egyptian culture, way of life, and economy.
Regarding Egyptian culture, girls who long to play hockey for long times usually stop playing hockey as their families exert pressure on them in order to quit hockey because it, from their own perspective, impedes them, and they should look for something which is more useful to do, like getting a university degree or creating a family; they think that hockey prevents their daughters from fulfilling their social and vocational aims.
As a result, most Egyptian girls stop playing hockey at the age of 19 or 20.
Likewise, boys are forced to choose between hockey and education at about the same age, as they want to get the high school degree, known as "thanaweya amma", which contains many difficult curricula that need much time to be studied, thus forcing the student hockey players to devote almost all their time for studying, and eventually ignore hockey, either by complete quitting, or by decreasing training hours.
Consequently, Egypt loses a lot of great players who lose their great skills as a result of neglecting hockey.
Similarly, the Egyptian way of life influences youth hockey. In Egypt, people are not concerned with sports as much as other things like having jobs and getting money, so they think that doing sports, including hockey, is a waste of time, and an obstacle in the way of success. This belief greatly diminishes the number of hockey players, thus decreasing the number of good hockey players who can perform well on the international level.
In addition, hockey players rarely seek it as a profession. This is harmful for Egyptian hockey, because players search for another way by which they can put food on their tables, whereas they regard hockey as a pastime, without having the urge to give it more time by practicing and playing more.
Lack of funds also has its various bad effects on youth hockey. Young players are usually not provided with good sticks, balls, or kits, and most of them do not play on astro-turf as well! This is because there's not enough money in the federation’s hands. A very small amount of money is devoted for hockey (almost 99% of sports' funds are given to the football federation because it’s the most popular sport in Egypt), and since all clubs are owned by the government, the amounts of money provided for such clubs do not suffice; clubs do not have enough money by which they can construct astro-turf pitches, or provide their players, whether seniors or juniors, by the materials needed to play good hockey.
For instance, some clubs do not have the money needed to buy shirts, good sticks, or balls. To add insult to injury, they do not have pitches where players can practice on, thus reversing the hypothesis of the English proverb:" An international stadium creates an international player". As a result, players do not have an opportunity to play hockey on well-served hockey fields. Even though their clubs try to hire fields from other lucky clubs that have pitches to play on, they hire them only for senior teams due to shortage of money, so juniors play hockey only during matches. This is of a devastating effect on youth players, and can never help improving their skills or physical fitness by any means. Accordingly, they are deprived of the chance to play good hockey in good conditions so that they can be good players!
Despite the fact that hockey, especially youth hockey, is not in a well form today, the Egyptian federation is striving in order to provide the favored conditions that can create good youth hockey. For instance, they attached the league results of the junior teams to those of the seniors’, so that clubs are forced to pay more attention to youth with the intention that they achieve good results in their league, which cannot affect the results of the senior team badly. Hopefully, by hard work and ambition, youth hockey will be improved more and will produce more excellent hockey players that perform very well as Egyptian players on the international level.
By Seif Abouzeid
Youth Panel Egypt