Sun, Jul 10, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Dentist breaks ground as Egypt’s first woman in mainstream soccer punditry

AFP, CAIRO

Manar Sarhan disinfects her hands after filling a patient’s tooth, readying to catch the Euro 2016 match and analyze it for a newspaper as Egypt’s first woman in mainstream soccer punditry.

Sarhan, 27, appears weekly on the private CBC television channel to comment on matches in the competition, a rare sight in a field monopolized by former soccer players, all of them men.

“I chose dentistry as a career with my mind, but soccer is my passion and love,” Sarhan said.

“I tried to play soccer in the beginning, but I did not find a good opportunity in Egypt and I think specializing in analyzing soccer makes up a lot for it,” she said after examining a patient at a private clinic where she freelances as a dentist.

Sarhan began working in journalism as a volunteer in 2002, using a basic camera to capture footage for the Web site of her favorite Egyptian club: Zamalek.

Sarhan began writing for the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper and the popular Fil Goal Web site before she was picked up by satellite sports programs.

By day, Sarhan works in a government medical center and chips in at a clinic owned by one of her friends. At night, she clears her schedule to follow games and to read the latest in the world of soccer.

“I’m a dentist by day, and a soccer commentator by night,” Sarhan said, laughing as she packed away her medical instruments. “The effort put into commentary is more in spite of the return being lower.”

A profitable profession, dentistry is respected by Egyptians. It was not easy to enter the sports commentary world, especially as a woman.

“The field is already difficult for male youths, so what about a girl?” said Sarhan, who decorates her bedroom with posters of Egyptian and European soccer players.

“I was mocked in the beginning. They would tell me ‘Girls belong in kitchens,’” she said.

Her large following on Twitter suggests otherwise.

Top European clubs and their games are popular viewing in Egypt, and Sarhan has proven to be an expert in the field.

Ibrahim Fayek, an anchor at CBC, said hosting Sarhan was “very strange” in the beginning because she is “a lady and a dentist.”

Now, he is doing his best to keep her on his show as competitors try to poach her.

“Manar has an expansive and deep understanding of soccer and she presents a different type of soccer analysis. Her explanation of the different teams’ plans and tactics surprised me,” Fayek said.

At home, Sarhan sits close to a large screen broadcasting Belgium against Wales, jotting down statistics on passing and the players’ movements.

Nearby lies an old copy of Britain’s World Soccer magazine, with the cover featuring Zinedine Zidane, who she said inspired her love for Real Madrid.

“I would watch a match twice before writing any comprehensive technical analysis,” she said.

Her passion for soccer inspired Sarhan to learn Spanish so she could track La Liga and the club she supports from original sources.

She plans to also learn Italian and Portuguese to expand the sphere of European soccer that she can follow.

Sarhan also follows Spanish youth matches and teams that are less well known to be able to keep abreast of up-and-coming talents.

In one corner of her house rests a ball which her mother says Sarhan still kicks around in the hallway.

“Manar has loved soccer since she was a child. I wanted her to continue her studies in her profession, but she is happy commentating,” her mother Magda al-Hawary said with evident pride.

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