- The Egyptian Professional Footballers Association (EPFA) is one of around 30 FIFPRO members organising training camps for players without a contract
- The union helps players maintain fitness when out of contract, while also providing educational tools
- The camp helped 18 players find a club in Egypt and abroad
At the start of each new season, many players worldwide find themselves without a club. To support out-of-contract players, around 30 FIFPRO member associations organise training camps.
The Egyptian Professional Footballers Association (EPFA) is one of them; it organised its sixth annual camp in August.
"The training camp is our most important project as far as the sporting aspect is concerned and it is as popular as ever,” EPFA President Magdy Abdelghany told FIFPRO. "We offer the players a professional environment that includes top facilities, accommodation, and coaching staff, to help them prepare for the upcoming season and show that they still belong in professional football.
"We expanded the project and not only offer training opportunities for men’s players during the upcoming winter season, but women’s players too."
Egypt has a professional women’s league with 16 clubs. “Many of the professional women’s players asked us to give them the chance to participate in similar training camps, to help them prepare for joining one of the clubs in our country.”
In August, the EPFA welcomed 28 players for a ten-day training camp in Cairo. Most of the players previously played in the first and second division. During previous years the camp lasted one week, but the union extended the event by three days to give players a better opportunity to work on their fitness and skills.
"That so many players applied for the training camp showed that the project makes sense," said Hany El-Oukaby, the EPFA’s sports director. "Sherif El-Khashab Sr oversaw the training camp, and he made the guys work hard to get fit and healthy and ready to join a club.
"The team played three matches against first and second division teams, with the EPFA team winning two of the encounters and drawing one. The opposing teams did not play with their strongest line-ups, and allowed more playing time for substitutes. But I must say, fortunately we also had some very good players in our camp."
One of the differences with training camps organised by other FIFPRO members is that the EPFA also allowed players who already had a contract with a club to attend the camp.
Some of them had issues with their club and were looking for solutions, sometimes with the support of the union. In the meantime, they could prepare themselves for the new season. "These players were only allowed to train, but they could see how beneficial our camp is," El-Oukaby said.
The training camp was about more than physically preparing the players for the upcoming season, though. The EPFA took the opportunity to inform the participants about the FA Code of Conduct for players and coaches.
It also offered different forms of education about topics such as decision-making, sports nutrition, communication, and problem-solving.
El-Oukaby said: "We also asked the coaches to focus on the mental health of the players. We brought in some experts who educated the players about this topic, talked about some of their experiences, and discussed how to deal with mental health problems or where to turn to for support."
"All-in-all, it was a successful training camp for the EPFA," El-Oukaby continued. "We were able to help 18 players join a club and sign a contract both in Egypt as abroad."
Since last season, the EPFA expanded some of the services they offer during the training camp to an online environment. Each month, players can join extra training sessions to learn more about nutrition, fitness, technique, communication skills, presentation skills, different languages, and other life skills.
"That proved to be a good initiative, as during last season, a total of 28 players took part in these training sessions to focus on their individual development," said El-Oukaby.