Liverpool FC today announced plans to open its first ever international football Academy in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.
Ian Rush and Master Sports Managing Director Mohamed Hassan at Madinaty Sporting Club in New Cairo
The groundbreaking venture, a first for Liverpool FC in the Middle East, was officially unveiled by Reds legend Ian Rush at a ceremony attended by media from all over the region.
The Academy, when it officially opens early next month, will have a permanent base in Madinaty, a new 33 million square metre ultra-modern extension city being built within New Cairo, with a supporting soccer school in nearby Al Rehab designed to help identify the best young footballing talent in Cairo.
For Managing Director Ian Ayre, who over the past two years has seen LFC team up with international parters to open soccer schools in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Cyprus, Indonesia, USA and St. Vincent in the Caribbean, today's announcement demonstrates a genuine commitment to bringing supporters closer to the club, no matter where in the world they live.
"Our international football Academies connect fans around the world and provide young people with an opportunity to be trained by qualified coaches at an official Liverpool Football Club academy," says Ayre. "All of our Academies follow the operating model of our own academy here in Liverpool and we are excited about this latest addition in Egypt as it will also bring children together in local communities through football events and camps."
For Ian Rush, who over the past two years has travelled the world as Club Ambassador for the LFC International Football Academy Soccer schools, this latest project further illustrates the massive global appeal of Liverpool Football Club.
"This is a really exciting time for the club," insists Liverpool's record goalscorer, "because it's no longer just about what happens back home on Merseyside. We have millions of fans all over the world, particularly in Asia and over here in the Middle East, and while they can't all come over to Anfield to attend a match or see the first team play, we can now go to them.
"No matter where in the world you go, and I have been fortunate enough to travel more than most, you meet people who absolutely love Liverpool Football Club. Speaking to people over here in Cairo, the fans love more than just the football that's played on the pitch, they love everything about the club - the history, the fans and what the club stands for. If we can repay that support by coaching the next generation of football fans - the children of our supporters here in Egypt - then that's got to be a positive thing for everybody."
While Liverpool have provided the know-how into setting up and running the venture - Dave Riddler, a former LFC Academy coach and one-time team-mate of Rush in Wales, has recently moved to Cairo to head up the training programme - the day-to-day running of the Academy will be looked after by Master Sports, a company with a long history of involvement in Egyptian professional football.
For Master Sports Managing Director Mohamed Hassan, himself a former professional footballer in Egypt whose career was sadly cut short by injury, joining forces with Liverpool is the culmination of a lifetime ambition.
"I started supporting Liverpool in the 1980s when we were the most successful club in the world," he says. "My friends were as passionate as I was but it was very difficult to find a place to watch the games live at that time in Cairo. It wasn't just the fact that we were winning trophies that appealed to me however. Liverpool's philosophy about what football should be about matched my own - to be excellent on the pitch, playing a passing game, but also to be modest off it. Even though they were the best, there was never any arrogance. The players were humble which is how I believe footballers should be.
"In terms of setting up a Liverpool Academy over here, it's something which I've wanted to do for a long time. I first approached the club about five years ago but I don't think the infrastructure at Liverpool was in place to make it happen but a lot has changed at Anfield and now I'm delighted to be able to say that this is the first LFC Academy in the Middle East.
"It's a real dream of mine to be able to work with Liverpool Football Club but more importantly, for me, it's a chance to help the young players in this country improve. There's a lot of very talented young kids in Egypt but they lack that little bit of extra tuition and guidance that Liverpool can help provide. With the right coaching I think we can develop young Egyptian players who can one day play for Liverpool. I know that sounds like a dream but I don't think it's an unrealistic one. Egypt won the African Cup of Nations in 2006, 2008 and 2010 so that proves this is a strong footballing nation. With Liverpool's help, we can help make the next generation of young players even better and that will be good for not just Egypt but Liverpool as well."
To find out more about the LFC International Football Academy Soccer Schools, click here>>
For contact details about the new LFC Academy in Egypt, click here>>