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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 11:53 GMT
Arsenal set up shop in Cairo
By Nick Cavell
BBC Sport in Cairo

Members of the Wadi Degla club
Club members are put through their paces by Arsenal trainers.
Think of Arsenal's links with Africa and the names Kanu and Koulo Toure spring to mind. The club's links with Egypt, however, are a little less obvious.

There is, of course, reserve goalkeeper Rami Shaban, but there is another link between the club and the land of the Pharaohs - a football school in Cairo.

The Wadi Degla club on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital is like a small oasis with desert on one side and a sprawling mass of half-finished buildings on the other.

Part of our agreement is that a community project will be set up for less fortunate children
Paul Shipwright, Arsenal Soccer Schools
As well as the football school, the club has swimming pools, tennis courts, a horse-riding arena, squash courts and a gym.

And more recently links have been established with the British Horse Association as well as other international sporting bodies.

The football school has had links with English Premiership club Arsenal for the last six months.

Paul Shipwright, the Business Development manager for Arsenal Soccer Schools, has played a key role in developing those ties.

It is hoped that by bringing in professionals from England it will help develop the game in Egypt.

"We provide the coaching syllabus for the school by helping to train the existing coaches at the Wadi Degla club," explained Shipwright.

"Our coaches come over to Egypt every six to eight weeks and spend four or five days with the trainers who then pass on the lessons they have learnt to the children at the club."

In return Arsenal are paid a royalty fee from the money raised from those attending the school.

"Arsenal are also hoping to create more fans for the club," said Shipwright.

"If we can do that there'll be other commercial benefits in the future."

But Shipwright was keen to point out that the club was not just interested in the money-making side of such a venture or limiting the school to a privileged few.

"This link to Wadi Degla is the first commercial one we have done in Africa.

"We've got community-based projects in Soweto, South Africa and Nigeria where we provide similar support but completely free of charge.

"Part of our agreement with the Wadi Degla club is that a community project will be set up so that less fortunate children will be able to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of Arsenal."

A member of the Wadi Degla school with the FA Cup
School members were given the chance to hold the FA Cup
Arsenal became involved with the Cairo-based club after an approach by the club itself earlier this year.

But the club's general secretary Maged Samy said that London-based Arsenal were not the only major football club they approached.

"We spoke to about 10 soccer schools altogether, but in the end we decided that Arsenal would be the best option for us," Samy explained.

Samy too is keen to ensure that the knowledge obtained by the club can be passed on the community as a whole.

"We have a community vision and are keen to help those unable to afford our school. We have already started offering our resources to local schools at a heavily reduced cost," he said.

What is obvious at the club is that both the children and the parents appreciate and enjoy the links with Arsenal.

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