Picture : Sarah Essam is the first and only arab woman footballer to play in England's FA Premier League !
SPECIAL WOMEN FOOTBALL
Sarah Essam : The lady ‘Mo Salah’ of Egypt creates a new horizon.
Sarah Essam, hailed from Wadi Degla, Egypt is the first and only arab woman footballer to join an English FA Women’s premier league club. Due to her playing style, skills and achievements fans nicknamed her as the Lady version of Mo Salah. Between her busy schedule Sarah opens up with IFFHS about her football life.
IFFHS Q: When did your journey with football begin?
Sarah: When I was 5-6 years old, I started playing football with my brother and his friends. At age 13, I took football seriously and set an ambition for myself. I decided to join an academy to pick for a team in Egypt’s premier league and get an opportunity to play for Egypt’s national team so my level can be suitable to play in a European country.
IFFHS Q: Being the first Arab woman to play football in a English club, did you ever think about this historic feat?
Sarah: I’m very happy that I have made history for Arab women, I really never thought about it to be the first one, but I always had the hunger to succeed and to prove that I can play in Europe. It wasn’t easy to have this mindset when I was in Egypt but I used to tell myself that my time in Egypt is just a preparation for what’s coming in the future and that I have to push myself more than any other player around me.
IFFHS Q: From an orthodox community where women’s football is not so popular, how did you overcome the obstacles to achieve your goals?
Sarah: I was mentally prepared that I will be facing challenges and many people may judge or think its not suitable for a girl to play football. I am strong willed and not to retire from football until I achieve my ambitions and I am happy that after holding on to my dreams, I made the first step and hopefully will keep working harder and harder to achieve my ambitions.
IFFHS Q: Who was your inspiration to pursue a career in football?
Sarah: My inspiration always comes from random people in random careers or even any story I hear about. I also see my grandma as a solid and ambitious woman may her soul rest in peace. My brother, elder and younger sisters and my parents also inspire and motivate me.
IFFHS Q: About English football, what were your first impressions after all?
Sarah: They have great facilities, well organized, and qualified coaches. Moreover women’s football is appreciated and valued by the English FA. Of course, the mentality, physicality, and pace are different from Egypt.
IFFHS Q: About your first club in Egypt, and other clubs you played there?. How did you reach England?
Sarah: I faced numerous challenges in Egypt to become a professional footballer. I used to do extra training myself, so it can help me when I travel abroad. I won the league with the Egyptian team and I learned that winning mentality which suited my mentality very well because I hate losing even in training. I reached the Egyptian national first team at just 15 years old, it was a huge step and made me feel that I’m working on the right track. I kept working on myself even when I faced a letdown and was about to give up, and the hard work paid off. I got the opportunity to travel to England and do trials for Birmingham City, Derby County, Sunderland AFC, and Stoke City.
IFFHS Q: “Golden boot award from Stoke City Club”, “Arab Women of the year 2018 (1st Egyptian woman who won it)” and a nickname given by fans “ The Female Mo Salah” which is more sweetest?
Sarah: It was a coincidence that 'Mo Salah' and I came to England in July 2017. He signed for Liverpool and I signed with Stoke at the same month too and we even won the golden boot in the same season. People call me the female version of him because of our timing and achievements in the same country. I’m privileged about that of course and happy to finally see Egyptian knowing about women’s football existence.
IFFHS Q: What are the thoughts about Egyptian women’s national team and their performance on the international stage?
Sarah: Egyptian FA unfortunately withdrew from women’s football competitions in 2016, which was a shame because in 2016 I qualified for the African cup of nations for the second time in the history, first time in 1998 before I was born. After the intervention of the Egypt President, the FA started to pick up the pace and start doing strategies for the women’s football national team again. The minister of youth and sports in Egypt honored me with the British Ambassador in Egypt for my achievements and confirmed that the women's national team will take part in competitions again. The FA in Egypt did meetings with me to learn from my experience in the UK. The first national team camp will be held in December after 3.5 years and I’m very excited and can't wait to play for Egypt again with my teammates.
IFFHS Q: As a role model to young Egyptian girls, what is your message to them?
Sarah: My message is don’t ever say it's too late and never compare yourself to others because everybody’s path and background is different. Do not create excuses for yourself to give up your dreams. You should keep faith and confidence in yourself and be ready to face struggles sometimes, but you have to stay strong to pass these struggles.
IFFHS Q: Tell us about your family?
Sarah: They are the reasons for everything that is good in my life and the reason I always want to make them proud. They are very supportive and have been there through it all for me when there wasn’t anybody else.
What is your strength and weakness? : My family is my strength and weakness.
Favorite Women’s footballer? There are many players I like to watch and learn from.
Favorite Men’s Footballer? I like to take the positives from every player for example Cristiano Ronaldo’s mentality and work ethic and learn also from Messi’s amazing dribbling and key passes.
What do you like and what you hate?
I like to win and I hate losing.
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