“More people talking about rugby in Egypt” following women’s Arab Sevens success

World Rugby caught up with Farida Elzakzouk and Sarah Abd Elbaki following the recent Arab Sevens in Alexandria.

Egypt captain Farida Elzakzouk hopes her side’s success at the recent Arab Sevens can help provide a springboard for the women’s game in the African nation.

Fielding an international team for the first time in a decade, hosts Egypt won the women’s tournament without conceding a single point, beating Lebanon, Syria and the UAE in Alexandria.

“It was amazing, to be very honest, because that's really the first time we actually played next to each other,” Elzakzouk told World Rugby.

“We won the tournament with a clean sheet, which is amazing because we didn't expect that. 

“We knew that we were good and so on, however, we didn't expect this progress. So, we're really excited to participate in other tournaments.”

Good publicity

The Egyptian Rugby Football Union was convinced to provide funding, and coaches, for the team by Transforma Panthers player Menna Sedky, who was part of the squad in Alexandria.

Elzakzouk revealed that the team has since been invited to play in international competitions in Africa, and she has her sights set on helping Egypt earn their place in regional qualifying for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022.

“More people are talking about rugby in Egypt right now,” she added. “A lot of people are coming to me [and asking:] 'How can I come?' 'How can I play?' 

“So, I'm really happy that this hype just gave rugby the good publicity it needs in Egypt. So, I really hope that in five years the teams get bigger, we have more numbers in the national league in Egypt, which means that we'll have a better chance of reaching better positions when it comes to other [tournaments], whether in Africa or in the Arab world or even on a global level.”

Although Egypt beat Syria 31-0 in the pool stage and then again by the same score in the final, Elzakzouk admitted that it was the team led by Sarah Abd Elbaki who made them most nervous.

Abd Elbaki has become an influential figure in women’s rugby in the Arab world, and when she isn’t captaining her country, works as Syria Rugby’s Head of Women’s Rugby Development, is an assistant coach for the men’s national team and a referee.

“We all knew how great she is,” Elzakzouk said. “Everyone says that she's well known and she coaches different teams and she's very known [on] the rugby field. 

“So, we were really nervous to play against her. However, I believe that our coaches really gave us a lot of the knick-knacks, how to [cope].”

Introducing rugby to a new audience

Abd Elbaki found out that she would be captain in Alexandria a month before the tournament, when the squad began its preparation for Egypt.

“It's an amazing feeling, I'm so proud,” she said. “It's an honour, actually, to be the captain of such a wonderful team and strong ladies. And, I'm just so proud and honoured to be the captain.”

Abd Elbaki added: “We had our eyes on the gold medal, to be honest. But unfortunately, we lost because Egypt is such a strong team and it's their land, and [their players] have huge experience. 

“So, they were a tough number for us. But, we did our best to be honest. We were fighting in that game.”

Unsurprisingly for someone who juggles four very different roles, as a player, coach, referee and administrator, Abd Elbaki is unsure which one will eventually dominate her time.

“It's not easy, to be honest, but when you love something you just give it all you've got,” she explained. “I try to focus, I try to make a transition between all of them and to clear my mind. 

“So, it's not easy, but I manage to do it and I didn't choose what I want to do for the future, [yet]. But, I just want to keep on trying all of them until I find my right path.”

What is in no doubt is the young Syrian’s drive and passion for rugby, and Abd Elbaki is determined to showcase the game to as many women around the world as possible.

“I'm so happy because this is my goal, you know, this is what I want to do,” she said about her growing profile in the game. 

“I just want to introduce rugby to every woman in my country and not only in my country, in Asia and in the world. 

“So, it's really an amazing thing when you can be in a place where you can meet more women. And, I'm just working on that and hopefully I manage to inspire other women.”

READ MORE: Pioneering Olympic female referee Alhambra Nievas excited by the next generation >>

Last updated: Mar 3, 2021, 2:37:42 PM
sevens-news wr-women-news-sevens sevens wr-news-sevens wr-news-olympics-w Olympics wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News mz-advisory wr-news-olympics-m
Rugby sevens match officials unveiled for Tokyo Olympics with 100 days to go
Squad of 22 match officials announced for the women’s and men’s rugby sevens competitions at the delayed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Maggie Alphonsi - ITV Sport
wr-news Women's wr-women-news Feature
Team player Maggie Alphonsi relishing role as a TV rugby pundit
It is often said that rugby is the ultimate team sport and Red Roses legend, Maggie Alphonsi MBE, is finding that applies to her successful broadcasting career every bit as much as when she played.
Sene Naoupu scores try for Ireland
wr-women-news-regions wr-news Women's wr-women-news Tournament News wr-women-news-power
Ireland star Sene Naoupu hoping to help International Rugby Players achieve “game-changer objectives”
Following her appointment as Head of Strategic Projects and Research at IRP, we caught up with the Irish centre.
Jasmine Joyce at World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier 2018
wr-women-news-sevens Women's sevens-news-olympic wr-news-olympics-w Olympics wr-women-news-regions wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News
Jasmine Joyce focused on making the most of “amazing” Olympic opportunity
With the opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020 set to take place in 100 days, we caught up with the Bristol Bears, Wales and Great Britain star to discuss life as a professional athlete, her hopes for the Games and juggling rugby commitments.
Women'sSix Nations 2021: Italy v England
wr-women-news-regions wr-news wr-women-news
Women’s Six Nations 2021 in numbers: Dow-Jones stock rises
We shine a light on some of the dazzling performances from the second round of the Women’s Six Nations 2021.
Women's Six Nations 2021: Wales v Ireland
wr-news Women's wr-women-news Tournament News wr-news-rankings
Spain benefit from Welsh woes in World Rugby Women’s Rankings
Wales drop to 10th in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings, with Spain replacing them in ninth, after a heavy home defeat to Ireland in the Women’s Six Nations 2021.
Lao Rugby Unstoppables
wr-women-news-regions wr-news Women's Development Women's wr-women-news wr-women-news-power
Lao Rugby Unstoppables hope to “make the environment better” for future generation
We spoke to Lao Rugby Federation CEO Viengsamai Souksavanh, who organised a networking event in Vientiane that brought together 17 Unstoppable females from the country’s rugby community.
Bath Rugby v Wasps - Gallagher Premiership Rugby
wr-women-news-regions wr-women-news-coach wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News wr-news-europe wr-news-matchofficials
Breaking glass ceilings: Sara Cox and Nikki O’Donnell on life as test rugby referees
Ahead of the second weekend of the Women’s Six Nations 2021, we caught up with the English match officials to discuss their careers in the game.
Keep Rugby Clean RWC 2017
wr-news Women's Development Women's wr-women-news Tournament News wr-women-news-power
Educating young people “the best way of changing behaviours” around doping says Deb Robinson
On Play True Day, World Rugby anti-doping advisory committee chair, Deb Robinson discusses the importance of keeping rugby and sport clean.
Women's Rugby Super Series 2019 - USA v France - Photo: David Barpal
wr-news Women's wr-women-news Tournament News RWC2021 Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-power wr-women-news-classic
Rugby World Cup 1991 30th anniversary: Today’s players reflect on women’s rugby pioneers
Three decades on from the inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup, we talk to three current Women’s Six Nations players about what those early tournaments mean to them.