El Gouna FC
Written by Craig Botes – December 2017
El Gouna Magazine
If you drive into El Gouna from the south entrance, through El Bustan, you can’t miss the towering walls and floodlights of a football stadium. Looking slightly abandoned, I had to do some investigation to find out what lay beyond the walls. With some round the clock construction work, it became apparent that the site is being prepared, or at least upgraded to fulfil a vision. Still in the dark, I looked a bit further and managed to track down the man behind the vision and caught up with Nader Shawky. A breezeless autumn morning had us sipping coffee at Seventh Star at the Abu Tig Marina while Nader relayed all the history and hopes for El Gouna FC to me.
A question that should be answered before we carry on is: Who is Nader Shawky and why is he the right person to help the team? Nader is a football manager and I discovered early on that he has an impressive C.V. His management company, Eleven 11 manages Egyptian football players and has nurtured some players as far up as the elite English Premier League. Stoke City’s, Ramadan Sobhi, is currently top of their books while they boast previous players playing in Hull City, Sunderland and Middleborough. One can see that El Gouna FC might find themselves very fortunate to have Nader and his company behind them.
That question answered creates a new one: Why did Nader feel the need to help El Gouna FC. Having friends in all areas of Egyptian football, he was told about the local football club. At the time he was running football camps for schools and busy helping small teams grow. After a few conversations, he agreed to travel to El Gouna to see the facilities and see if he could offer any expertise. Naturally disappointed at the state of the pitch, a disaster in his own words, he set out to approach Orascom, El Gouna’s management company, with a presentation of how he and his team could improve things. This presentation detailed everything that needed to be done in order to raise a functional and presentable football team. An agreement was secured and plans were set.
The players, now under new leadership, went through a gruelling reselection process and only 7 of those players were still a part of the team by the end of it. The ages range from 20 years old up to 34 years old with the oldest, most experienced player being the captain, Osama Ragab. And they proudly house international players from as far away as Ghana and Paraguay.
You might ask where they play and practice. It so happens that there are actually 3 football pitches in El Gouna. All of them right next to each other. Pitch 1 is in the main stadium and is the one currently being overhauled. Pitch 2 is unusable and will remain so for the foreseeable future. So it’s up to pitch 3 to host the games and allow for practice. And it is a fully functional pitch with perfect lawn cover and well-maintained equipment. The downside of pitch 3 is that the viewing stand is small and can host only a fraction of what the stadium can. But we hope with the growth of the team and their rise to 1st division, Gouna FC’s fanbase will grow as well.
The dream for El Gouna FC is to make it back to the Egyptian premier league. They had achieved this for the first and only time after their 2008 – 2009 season, but are currently back in the second division. When Gouna FC first began in 2003, they began in the fourth division and climbed their way up over the years. So there is little doubt that they will achieve the same status soon enough. A lot of work is going into their marketing strategy and I was impressed to hear of all the finest details being thought of. For example, they have New Balance jerseys. This might sound like it’s no big deal but players who, not only play the part but also look the part, put on a better performance for those who are really behind football – the fans. And they certainly seem to know the value of their fans. In November 2017 they attended the EGIS, El Gouna International School, sports day. Playing football with the students, signing autographs and taking selfies with the school kids all made the school’s sports day a happy endeavour. Ironically, these are the very kids who might just end up taking their place one day.
Although there is some good-old-fashioned hard work and training ahead, El Gouna FC is well on their way to making it back into the 1st division. They play matches every weekend with games being played home as well as away. I managed to catch one of the games at the Gouna grounds. I must say, the team looks amazing. They proudly wear their colours and certainly carry an air of professionalism with them. No connoisseur of football myself, I’m the last to judge, but I found the level football, sportsmanship and professionalism to be of high standard. The viewing stand, although small, was full of fans. With quite a number of them being boys of circa 9 – 15 years old, it was very encouraging to see the look of excitement and hero worship in their eyes as they watched the full force of competition unfold.
The team is currently (as of December 2018) comprised of the following people:
Mahmoud El Shabrawy
Mohammed Abdel Gawad
Mohammed Attia Khaled Sobhy
Krim El Komy
Amr El Ahmadi
Abdulla Al Ballat