Contributed by: Wesley Hull
The work and passion of Mohammed Hashem and his Auskick in Egypt initiative was at risk of falling away. But the Australian Embassy in Cairo stepped in and suddenly there are Australian Rules footys in Egypt. Mo Hash’s dream can now continue. Following is his account of what it has taken to grow the game in a part of the world that previously seemed worlds away from the Aussie Rules heartlands.
“Auskick in Egypt was an initiative started by myself at three distinct attractive sports facilities in Cairo and one out of Cairo in New Valley Governorate. The idea was to give children aged 5-12 the opportunity to learn about Australian culture through playing AFL. We have not charged any of the participants for any of the programs.”
Things were challenging early on for Auskick in Egypt, as Mo explained. “I was only using grid iron balls and whatever else I could find in the sports facilities. We used a combination of witches hats, soccer balls and the mentioned grid iron balls where possible.”
Then, some of the dominoes began to fall. “I initially got 20 balls from AFL International back home and then friends scourged around to get more balls and equipment. Ahmed Saad was a great help from the AFL Diversity Unit, who provided more balls, polo shirts, game cards jackets and ball bags.”
“AFL International then gave us more balls and mini goal posts and cones when they saw that we have an active page and there were many participants.”
Gradually, the momentum grew. “Again friends helped with gathering all the equipment together and again Ahmed Saad was a great help taking the stuff he gathered for us to a premises in Melbourne. We had gathered equipment from a few sources including Emma Davies who works with Kevin Sheedy providing us with some fantastic Buffalo balls.”
“The final help and probably most important was the Australian Embassy in Cairo who were able to ship all of the merchandise. In total, 56 kilos worth of Australian Rules football equipment to Egypt.”
“Finally all was received to my home address a day before my birthday and in time for Christmas which was a real blessing. Obviously the Australian Embassy help with putting their name on the DHL from Australia order helped ease the bureaucracy that we could have faced and obviously payment by the embassy was a real help.”
There were certainly many people involved in the processes to get these footballs into Egypt. “The AFL and the AFL Diversity unit as well as the Australian Embassy here in Egypt need real praise. The hardest part was the international sending and shipping, so the embassy were the real movers there.
“Specifically, however, there are many people to thank. Firstly, Ahmed Saad, the former AFL player with St Kilda and now a part of the AFL Diversity and Multicultural unit. Anna Chrisp and Nancy Bahig from the Australian Embassy in Cairo for helping with shipping and eagerly wanting to help. Andrew Hughes, manager of AFL International who initiated the help with balls and approval to use the Auskick site for coaches.”
“Additionally, Andrew Lozanovski, also from the AFL team, who added more balls and goal posts. Emma Davies who works with Kevin Sheedy and also works with kids at the Northern Saints football club and also the president of the club Joseph Antonetti for the ongoing support.”
Now comes the next part of the challenge for Mo Hash and his team in Egypt. “[Our plan is] to keep going and make more kids play the game and hopefully get the game in a curriculum at university (sports education with an emphasis on the game). This is the beginning of an exciting and fun introduction to Australian culture and education.”
It might also be the next step in Australian Rules football taking a firm hold in yet another country on the other side of the world.
Picture: Australian Embassy staff in Cairo with their footballs
World Footy News