Haider breaking down barriers in Egyptian football
Faiza Haider is the first woman to coach a men’s team in Egypt
She captained the Egyptian women’s national side for a decade
Also played a vital role in the development of women’s football in her homeland
A headscarf-wearing Muslim, Faiza Haider comes from Upper Egypt, one of the African country’s most conservative regions. Despite the significant challenges she has faced by taking part in a sport long reserved for men in many Arab societies, she has never given up on her aspirations of playing football.
“Football has given me confidence and has turned me into a strong individual who doesn’t shirk from challenges,” the Goldi Sporting Club coach told FIFA.com. “I never stopped chasing my childhood dream, which ended up becoming a reality.”
Reputation through results
Bringing down cultural and religious barriers has not always been easy for the experienced international. “I began coaching in 2009 with the East Helwan Youth Centre club,” she said.
“Right from the start, I was ridiculed and criticised. People made fun of the players for taking orders from a woman, telling them that it would negatively affect their scores. I had a tough time before coming to Goldi Sporting Club, but my serious approach and solid results really boosted my credibility.”
As a woman, Haider was forced to put in a massive effort in order for her abilities and qualities to be accepted. She enhanced her experience by attending training courses run by FIFA, CAF and the English and Spanish Football Associations – she was the first female Egyptian coach to be accredited by the English FA.
Talent over tradition
Now 37, Haider has grown to welcome challenges and thrive on adversity. Before turning her hand to coaching, she played the beautiful game from the age of five onwards, convincing her family to let her live her passion to the full.
“My grandfather was well-known in Upper Egypt, which made my situation – wanting to play football – rather tricky,” she recalled. “After the death of my father, when I was just eight years old, my mother would get annoyed by the sight of me kicking a ball around with the boys in the streets of Cairo.”
In spite of the reticence felt by certain family members, she eventually embarked on a football career, playing in Egypt’s first female league in 1997. After signing for Aviation Club in 2003, she won the national championship in 2005, but it was only when she pulled on the national-team jersey that she truly began to savour living out her dreams.
“I was just 14 when I made my international debut; that was a special day,” said the long-serving Egyptian. “My focus and hard work led me to wear the captain’s armband for over ten years. And today, I remain an active part of the team, and I still have ambitions of competing in a World Cup with my country.”
The coach of Goldi Sporting Club, who play in the men’s fourth tier, was not satisfied with simply achieving her aspirations, and duly set about helping young girls across Egypt to do the same via a number of laudable initiatives. “I worked on a project called ‘1,000 girls, 1,000 dreams’, which paved the way for around 200,000 young women to play football in Egypt,” she explained.
While Haider’s determined and ambitious approach is paying dividends, she is well aware that nothing can be accomplished without hard work. “There’s a great will to develop women’s football in Egypt, but the efforts being made are not enough,” she said, nevertheless appreciative of FIFA’s steadfast support for the development of the female game in her homeland. “I hope we can benefit from FIFA’s support, because we really do have so much talent here.”
And Haider herself is living proof of that supposition.