CAIRO — Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said that his government is ready to provide support and assistance to the Egyptian company involved in manufacturing the official soccer ball for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Madbouly’s statement came during a Nov. 22 meeting with representatives of the sports gear manufacturer Forward Egypt.
Madbouly said the factory is a suitable starting point to establish an industrial city on Egyptian territory for the manufacturing of international sports products.
Forward Egypt, an affiliate of the Pakistani Forward sports equipment group, was commissioned by Adidas to manufacture a portion of the official soccer balls used in the World Cup in Qatar, Gasser el-Sayyed, chairman of the board of directors of Forward Egypt, said during his meeting with Madbouly
Seif el-Wazery, chairman of the state-owned advertising company Presentation Sports, said in a Facebook post Nov. 20 that a production line would be established at the Forward Egypt factory to manufacture soccer balls to be exported internationally with the engraving “Made in Egypt” and the colors of the Egyptian flag.
The official ball of the 2022 World Cup was designed by Adidas and manufactured by Forward Egypt. The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) had announced earlier that “Al-Rihla” (Arabic for “Journey”) would be the name of the ball.
Al-Rihla is the first ball in the soccer tournament’s history to be made with water-based inks and glues. Inside, it contains a motion sensor that sends data through semi-automatic technology to detect offsides. The data recorded through the ball also helps determine the exact kick point, which will also be transmitted to the control room.
Ahmed el-Nabawy, vice president of Forward Egypt, told Al-Monitor, “Located in the city of al-Rubiki, east of Cairo, the factory has an area of about 12,000 square meters [3 acres]. It employs 600 Egyptian workers who manufactured the World Cup ball.”
He said, “Egyptian workers were trained for two months in Pakistan before starting the manufacturing process.”
He pointed out that the company relies on experts from Pakistan and representatives of the international company, Adidas. The Egyptian factory imported technology and machinery from Pakistan in coordination with Adidas, he said, adding that Egypt aims to produce about 3.5 million soccer balls annually.
“FIFA would need about 6,000 balls during World Cup matches. Egypt will be able to manufacture 1,500 balls this year,” Nabawi explained.
He added, “The Egyptian company is working on its future expansion over two phases to incorporate production of shoes and sportswear for Adidas.”
Hisham el-Sayyed, managing director of Forward Egypt, said that the Egyptian company holds $15 million in starting capital and purely Egyptian investments.
He told Al-Monitor that the company started working on the project to manufacture the World Cup ball last year, and that it held talks with the initial manufacturer in Pakistan before kicking off the manufacturing process in February. It has already started delivering the first batches of soccer balls participating in the World Cup as of mid-November, he noted.
Sayyed explained that Forward Egypt delivers the product to Adidas, which carries out distribution. The factory will continue its work even after the end of the tournament as the agreement with Adidas was based on marketing Egyptian production in the African and European markets, he said, noting that the factory sells products to Adidas in US currency, not in Egyptian currency.
He stressed that the manufactured soccer balls go through daily quality tests. The finished product is subject to further rigorous testing to ensure it meets FIFA quality standards and is perfectly proportioned to bounce, fly and roll on the ground.
In a Nov. 21 Facebook post that was widely shared, Egyptian businessman Amr Mostafa Kamel said that he tried two years ago to obtain a license for a ball-producing factory after an agreement with the Pakistani Forward sports equipment group, but that the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sports demanded a 70% stake in the factory.
According to Kamel, the talks to grant him the necessary license to open the factory stalled. Because of the bureaucracy, there was significant effort and money wasted in the process, he added.
In what seems to be a response to Kamel’s allegations, the Ministry of Youth and Sports said in a Nov. 22 Facebook post, “We do not aim to acquire sports investments, but we are rather concerned with providing the appropriate environment to encourage sports investments and attract and maximize foreign investments.”
Egyptian sports commentator Hamdi al-Husseini told Al-Monitor, “Egypt’s entry into the World Cup soccer industry is something to be proud of.”
He said that Egypt’s competition with Pakistan in the field of ball manufacturing will enable the Egyptian industry to expand its global share in the future.
Historically, Pakistan produces about 70% of the world’s soccer balls, including the World Cup balls used in Qatar.
Although the Egyptian national soccer team did not qualify for the World Cup, the Egyptian flag is present in stadiums in Doha throughout the tournament thanks to the “Made in Egypt” World Cup soccer ball.
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