Given that sports, specifically football, play a huge role in our everyday entertainment we decided to take a different approach to our cover feature for this year’s entertainment feature. It is often overlooked that football is one of the biggest sources of entertainment in Egypt; which is why we thought it was time to explore it a bit further, especially with the recent launch of ZED Sports and ZED Football Club (ZED FC), which are poised to elevate football and the sports scene in Egypt to a whole new level. In this cover story, we introduce you to four members of ZED FC’s pioneering board of directors behind this exciting new project. They include the legendary former football player Hazem Emam, sports television presenter Seif Zaher, ZED Sports’ CEO Ahmed Diab and Orascom (ORA) CEO Haitham Abdelazim. eniGma’s Mohamed Hesham & Ezz Al-Turkey sat down with each of our cover stars to discuss their vision for ZED FC and their plan to take football in Egypt to new heights.
Hazem Emam (Former Football Player & Board Member)How did you get involved with ZED Sports?
It all started when Haitham Abdelazim invited me to several of ZED’s events. I was impressed by their approach towards sports in general and to junior players specifically. It is clear that Onsi Sawiris, the young Chairman of the Board, intends to do something unique and different for sports. He prefers to focus on the idea of finding talent, rather than buying players. You don’t often find that in large clubs, as they are focused on winning championships and maximising revenue, but ZED FC is for people who are purely passionate about football.
What do you think is the feature that differentiates the club from others?
We’re focusing on youth in a really special way and putting as much effort as we can into their development. If you work with them in a really passionate way and develop their talents, after a few years you will have a great team, that will hopefully compete abroad. We have a lot of talent in Egypt, which is something that we want to work on and improve.
Why do you think ZED FC is such a success?
Not anyone can invest their money and have the patience to wait six or seven years to see the results. We come with a rich football experience and lessons that we have learned over the years. Transmitting our experience is an important part of our investment in the future generation of football players. Of course, everyone is liable to mistakes, but we are positioned to minimise mistakes as much as possible. We’re also a large group of people on the board, and usually when many people work together, they produce a great end product.
Seif Zaher (Sports Television Presenter & Board Member)What do you think makes ZED FC and ZED Sports different than other clubs?
ZED FC is different because it is managed by many well-known football players such as Hazem Emam, Mido, Ahmed Hassan and others. Also, Kareem Zaher, the well-known tennis player is in charge of tennis and padel tennis. We get the top-notch people for everything and that’s what makes us unique. We look for the best quality. We have a slew of top-notch partners, all of whom are extremely successful in what they do, and I am certain they wouldn’t put their name on something that will end up being mediocre or even normal. It must excel.
Why do you think ZED is qualified enough to take on a project such as ZED Sports?
I believe the difference between the performance of football players in Egypt and those in European countries is due to the training they get. Lots of football players, such as Hazem Emam and Ahmed Hossam Mido, liked the idea and wanted to contribute to the project and so we signed contracts with them. ZED Sports New Cairo is just like any sporting club with subscriptions for football, basketball, tennis, padel tennis, squash, volleyball swimming and also a playground for kids. ZED Sheikh Zayed is only for professional players who want to pursue football, tennis or padel tennis as a career.
What do you think is the ultimate goal for ZED FC and ZED Sports?
We have some very big names in the field with us in ZED FC. It’s a win-win situation, really, because we’ve all worked so hard through the years in our separate careers and we can bring that to the table in a joint effort. The joint effort being—the junior sports players. It’s very important to invest in junior sports players and junior teams; they are the future. The thing about ZED is, we’re very patient here and we are looking forward to harvest what we’re sowing with these young players.
Haitham Abdelazim (ORA CEO & Board Member)How did the vision for ZED Sports start?
We thought of launching a Sports Academy and then signed contracts with Seif Zaher, Hazem Emam, Ahmed Hossam Mido, Ahmed Hassan, Emad Meteb and many other football players to start a football club in Egypt with Onsi Sawiris as chairman of the board of ZED FC.
Can you tell us a little bit about the sports university?
Some schools support their students’ athletic endeavours but create challenges when they want to maintain proper training alongside their studies. We decided to create a sports university to give these kinds of students the opportunity to focus more on their physical training in an encouraging environment. The sports university aims to prepare athletes, not only to reach their most competitive potential, but also to teach them how to use their skills later on in life, post their athletic journey. Upon retiring, they may choose to continue work within the field, such as a trainer or sports therapist etc., as it is those who have played and endured before, who are best suited to teach, train and heal later on. Also, top universities abroad always look for skilled players who are the best at what they do. Our aim is to simplify these students’ experience and to encourage all those who want to take sports seriously.
What’s your vision for ZED FC for the coming 10 years?
ZED FC has a 10-year plan to train young people to become professional football players. We have good connections with many European clubs, such as Real Madrid, Sevilla and many more, and this will help us a lot with the success of the club.
Ahmed Diab (ZED Sports CEO & Board Member)How did your work start with ZED Sports?
After returning from the United States, Onsi Sawiris had the idea of doing something in sports. Then nine months ago Naguib Sawiris, Onsi Sawiris and I sat together and we came up with the idea of ZED Sports. We decided on a strategy for the project, which comprised four key areas, the biggest one being football. We started ZED Football Club with four teams and they played in El Giza Championship of Sectors in the Egyptian League. Then we organised two championships. The ZED Clubs’ Cup, which took place last September and the Shooting Club Tournament which took place in February. A lot of people attended it. The next Championship is set to be in November but dates may vary according to the pandemic we’re going through.
Can you tell us a bit about ZED’s Sports Complex?
It will be a social sports club located in the Fifth Settlement as a part of New ZED. It spans 50 acres and that’s where we’ll have ZED’s Stadium. We will open applications for membership before the end of this year. We want to develop players, coaches and sports managers. Nowadays, the football industry is very difficult, yet it is very important.
How do you plan on promoting these talents and taking them to new heights?
To promote these talents we needed a worldwide network. We managed to get a FIFA license for a sports agency in order to help us provide the resources and the network for the players to reach professionalism abroad. On the board of ZED FC we have a mix between investment and sports management talent, which is not usually available in other clubs. Hopefully we will be able to benefit the sports sector in Egypt with a pure Egyptian brand that possesses some European features. That is our goal.
What does ZED Sports want to achieve in the next five years?
We want to succeed in football and raise professional players. We also have a sports university, which will be open to anyone who wants to practice other sports, not only football. That is one of our goals, to raise really great talent.
Photography: Edge Studio
Styling: Angie Neklawy
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