Halo everybody. Ever had a feeling of just wanting to let go of everything and travel to Egypt to study old manuscripts and relics from the ancient Egyptian kingdoms? No? Guess I am the only one then haha. Today we will find more about this prehistoric place and its water polo players. What I can already tell from my research and excavations, which took place on Google, is that the first ever historical mention of people swimming originates from Egypt and dates back more then 12 000 years. Egypt was once a land where Gods could walk and swim the earth freely. Today there are no more Gods in Egypt, but there are water polo players. Close enough for me. In today’s interview we will not speak about Egypt past, but of its present and its future. So without any further ado Mr. Big B himself, Mr. Mohamed Nabil Bolbol.
Hello Mohamed and thank you for taking the time for doing this interview with me. To kick off the interview could you, for my readers and me, give a short history of modern water polo in Egypt? What came first in Egypt water polo clubs, or water polo national team?
Hello Tomo, thank you for having me. Water polo in Egypt started in the early 60’s with national clubs, it was not that famous at that time but then step by step it started to grow in Egypt and had more clubs year by year till we made the first national team of Egypt. Our national team of Egypt participated in a lot of national events such as 2004 Olympics in Athens and World league and juniors international championship. Best place for our national team of Egypt is the 9th at the Juniors International championship.
What types of competitions are there for Egyptian clubs? Do you also play some sort of Champions League with other African and North African countries, or maybe with some Middle Eastern countries?
There are Egyptian cup and League every year. The league has 2 rounds and then the playoffs. The cup is 1 round and best of 3 playoffs. Yes there is the Arab cup, first 2 Egyptian teams in the league go to play the Arab cup but there is no African cup, nor the Champions League.
How many clubs are there in Egypt in total? Do these clubs have a lot of members? Could you give us an estimate just how big Egyptian water polo really is?
We have more than 14 clubs now in total and more than 5 academies around Egypt. On average a club has more than 400 players within different age groups, so that makes more than 5,600 players around Egypt and this is huge number.
So we can expect water polo in Egypt is just going to continue its growth?
Yes! I hope the growth continues, but it will only continue if our federation helps those players and if we have a Seniors national team that competes in the Olympics and international tournaments, we need more investment from them.
You are a player and a coach for your team from Alexandria. Could you tell us a little bit about your water polo experiences and history? How did you start playing water polo in Egypt and why did you stick for so long that you have now even started to coach? Is water polo your main job, or just a hobby?
I’m 27 years old. I started playing in 2001 and well it was not a good start. I was not good at that time, but then I worked on myself and I was able to help my team grab 17 medals in the Egyptian league and cups. 3 times I was named the best player in Egypt and 1 time top scorer and I also participated with the national team at Men Junior World Championship which took place in Sibenik, Croatia in 2009. I started coaching when I was 18 years old and was an assistant for about 6 years. Then I took U12 team and I was able to get 3 medals with them. Now I’m a coach for U14 Team. I worked in a bank for about 3 years when i graduated from University but then i realized that i want to be a full time water polo coach so I left my work and concentrated only in Water polo so it’s now my full time job and it’s something rare in Egypt.
Were you not scared of taking such a move? I mean why leaving your safe job with a safe paycheck in a bank of all the places and change it for water polo? What did your friends and family thought of this move? Were they supportive or critical?
At the beginning I was so scared and i don’t know how I made this move. I have sacrificed a lot of money for Water polo, but I think it’s worth it because, for me, changing a kids life and seeing him/her becoming a champion means a lot to me. Water polo runs in my blood and I want to see my country competing at the higher level. My family and friends called me crazy when they found out, but then my mother, my girlfriend and some of my friends stood by my side. They are proud of what I’m doing and that’s enough for me. I don’t care what people say about me as long as I’m happy with what I’m doing, so I’m also proud of myself.
As a young child playing water polo what were your dreams? What did you wanted to accomplish as a water polo player from Egypt and do you think that anything has changed within the Egyptian water polo community since then? Are kids in Egyptian water polo nowadays allowed to dream even bigger then you done?
When I was a kid all I ever wanted was to play at the Olympics with my national team. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it, but nowadays in Egypt there are a lot of good and talented players that can compete on the higher lever like Europe. We have now Ahmed Barakat, an Egyptian player playing in Greece in Panionios. It’s a good start for the Egyptian players. To start playing in Europe and to start believing that they can achieve something in their sport even if you come from Egypt. I think we can make a good national team in the next 2-3 years with the new generation.
What is the state of Egyptian water polo today and where do you think it is going? Is water polo in Egypt growing, or are things the way they always were?
Now it’s growing in Egypt and there are a lot of national clubs participating in national tournaments, they also travel abroad for camps and championships so our lever now is good and better than before so this will help to have a good national team. I hope that our Egyptian federation will help our national team to go to camps in Europe so we can compete with them.
What can we expect from Egyptian water polo players and its community in the future?
I expect that we will have a lot of players playing outside Egypt and then a strong national team hopefully.
I have seen on your Facebook profile that you have started your own water polo academy? Could you tell us a bit about this project and is this the first Water polo academy in Egypt?
This is not the first academy in Egypt there are a lot of academies in Cairo but it’s the first professional one in Alexandria. I have a vision that I want kids to love water polo from the early beginning and to be ready at the age of 7 or 8. That was my plan, to start doing something for them to let them learn and love water polo and to help other players grow and learn the basics of water polo.
And the last question is here. Once more thank you very much for doing this with me. Could you finish it off by telling my readers and me what, according to you, can we expect from the Egyptian water polo in the near future? What can we expect from the water polo in the whole region around Egypt and what can we expect from water polo in Alexandria?
You are more than welcomed Tomo. I was so excited to do this interview and I can assure you that in the near future you will hear the name Egypt strongly in Water polo, and i hope that Arab and African countries develop their own water polo to have their own Champions league and to have more matches and more events. That’s how you get better, so I hope our countries will be able to do this. And for my beloved city of Alexandria, I hope that one day we will dominate the domestic cup and the league. Thank you Tomo and thank you for the ones that will read this interview and I want to tell them that we have good water polo here in Egypt.
And there you have it. When water polo in places like Egypt is on the rise that means that the whole Water polo is on the rise. Let us hope that the whole water polo community will help the Egyptian community learn and grow, because we all benefit from it. Water polo is not only a sport. It is a society. It is a community and it is a network of people working and helping one another. I can’t wait for all of this to be over so that I can finally fulfill one of my childhood dreams and visit some of the ancient Egyptian places and maybe even play some water polo with the Pharaohs haha. Thank you for reading, my name is Tomo Bujas and you are the readers. Wish you all the best and stay healthy