They are the top athletes in their sports, raking in bronze, silver and gold medals while raising the name of their country higher and higher with each appearance on the international level.
Back home, the media ignores their victories while the government fails to recognize the potential to formulate a better image of Egypt. Even worse, they’re paid just EGP 1,500 (USD 190) to dedicate their lives to their sport.
In statements to Egyptian Streets, several athletes revealed the low salaries they receive for representing Egypt in a various sports.
Until six months ago, Egyptian national athletes received no monetary compensation at all. That means that a professional athlete would attend training, local competitions and more for absolutely nothing in return, despite the fact that such commitments require him or her to sacrifice other career options, education, and family time.
What about Egyptian athletes who travel overseas to represent their country and to participate in official training camps and competitions? According to sources who preferred to remain anonymous, athletes receive just USD 20 a day while overseas. That USD 20 faces a 10 percent tax that is imposed by the government, resulting in athletes actually receiving USD 18 (EGP 140). Six months ago, athletes received a mere USD 10 per day. It is unclear whether this is different for Egypt’s athletes who participate in the Olympic Games.
The issue is particularly more stringent on national athletes who are not sponsored by major companies. While national football team players may earn tens of thousands, other national athletes do not receive such benefits.
The question remains, why do Egyptian athletes even bother to travel overseas or compete on the international level under the Egyptian flag?
“They do it for Egypt,” said one coach, who receives USD 20 a day after tax while overseas.
“It used to be a lot worse in the past. This is actually a great improvement.”
One top athlete, who has dual nationality and could compete for another country and be rewarded far more for her efforts, said that she continues to train and represent Egypt because it is her true home.
“I lived in Egypt my whole life,” said the athlete. “It’s where my home is.”
“They [athletes] often put their lives on hold for their sport,” explained the coach. “They defer their education and reject potential jobs. Thankfully, they have the support of their friends, families and their teammates.”
It’s disheartening to watch devoted athletes being deprived of the support they deserve from the state. However, if they have managed to go so far fueled solely by their love for their country and passion for the sport one can only fathom the distance they can cross if they are actually properly backed.