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CAREER

Mariam: "WSM can change how female footballers are perceived.”

A sports agency for women and by women

BY Agnes Amondi

Sep 05, 2022, 07:44 AM

Who starts a business in the middle of a pandemic? As the world was reeling from the impact of the coronavirus, 25-year-old Egyptian Mariam AbouHegazy was tirelessly working round the clock to set up the Middle East’s & Africa’s first ever Women’s Sports Management (WSM) agency in Cairo.

The objective of her company is to fill the gap in the female sports market by providing opportunities to female athletes by securing athletic scholarships and club trials abroad, offering consultancy, and player representation among other services. 

Mariam has made it her life's purpose to develop women’s football in her country and the continent. It’s a devotion she’s had since she was a budding footballer in primary school which led her to join FC Barcelona Academy when it first launched in Egypt in 2006, and played professionally for Aimz Girls Football Academy.

Between the years ( 2014 to 2019) she picked an interest in the managerial and developmental aspects of the game. With the lack of organization and strategy within the sector, she knew that something had to change. Along with her Co-Founder and former teammate Samia Adam, they started the Women Sports Management agency.

Education

Mariam AbouHegazy

Striving to cut through the insufficiencies and bring in a new dawn for Egyptian women’s football, both pursued a masters degree in football business and sports management. 

Mariam graduated from the Johan Cruyff Institute in Barcelona while Samia from the University of East London. As that happened, they set up WSM in April 2020 after doing lots of research and network outreach. The process culminated in the launch of the agency in October 2020. 

“My experience as a footballer influenced me into pursuing this. I always discussed this with my Co-Founder Samia Adam, with whom I played alongside for a couple of years. We knew that many girls in Egypt had the talent to compete internationally but lacked the career guidance and the know-how to get to that level. We talked about the idea of WSM and after pursuing our masters degrees, we made it a reality.”
“The Masters was more than just an educational program. It was the first step into the management side of football. I got to understand the industry through the eyes of professionals working with top clubs.” 

“The most beneficial aspect of the program was the networking. Without the professionals I got to know through the masters, it would have been a lot harder to create this massive network in Europe who really trust what we’re doing with WSM.”

Player Representation

One of the core reasons for the establishment of the agency is to bring some professionalism to players and clubs. Whilst football authorities in the continent continue to promise transformation, WSM is taking a leading role.

“The main thing I noticed was that the industry in Egypt lacked professionalism. There’s a lot that goes into being a professional athlete and the players, coaches and clubs are not aware of that and those who were were not applying their knowledge.”
“The main idea of WSM is to revolutionize the female game by making the athletes more professional and level the playing field by providing them with the same environment and opportunities that are available to male athletes." 
"This is done through providing career guidance, extra private training sessions so they’re getting similar workloads, helping them get professional contracts abroad and through additional PR and marketing.”

So far, the agency has signed five players; Hanah Abou Gabal, Hanah Soliman, Laila Sherif, Malak Adel, and Malak Tamer with a plan of expanding its portfolio. Two players from Ghana and Tanzania have attracted their interest and might be their first signing outside Egypt.

Football Agent

Mariam doubles up as a football agent. Her drive “to be the intermediary for players and help them get to a better and more professional environment, one that they deserve to be in” propelled her to take on the role.

She understands how vital it is especially with a national football team that’s recently revived after years of dormancy. They participated in the inaugural edition of the CAF Women’s Champions League as hosts, an occasion Mariam admits can turn the fortunes of the women's game.
“This is a step in the right direction from the Egyptian Football Association. The exposure it provides will push some of the bigger clubs to launch a women’s football sector and will drive the ones already competing to invest more and provide a more professional environment.”
“From an agent’s point of view, I believe this is a great platform for African footballers to be seen and discovered from a much younger age, and more frequently, as opposed to only being seen during the African Women Cup of Nations and World Cup Games and Qualifiers.”

Before she gets her final word, Mariam has this simple yet poignant message for young girls.
“You can become whatever you strive to be. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
So is WSM the future of Egyptian women’s football?

“I can only say that we hope to play a leading role in bettering the women’s football industry, not just in Egypt, but in the entire continent. With support from all stakeholders, I believe WSM is capable of changing how female footballers and the entire women’s football industry is perceived.”

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