Pyramids FC, the new football club in Egypt is creating a football revolution.
Nearly any kid growing up in Egypt is either an Ahly fan or the total opposite: a fan of their archrivals Zamalek, the second most successful team in the country.
“Change your principles, and support Pyramids," was the slogan of Pyramids FC, and it shows a true initial statement of intent, by indirectly claiming that Pyramids FC was there to compete with two teams that are not just giants in Egypt, but also in Africa.
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Pyramids FC, previously known as Al Assiouty Sport, is a Cairo-based Egyptian football club that has been going through a massive revolution this summer. Turki Al-Sheikh, Saudi billionaire and chairman of the General Sports Authority in Saudi Arabia, has bought the club, and in only a couple of months has already made a massive statement of intent. He has renamed Al Assiouty Sport to Pyramids FC, clearly for branding reasons, and anyone closely following what the club has been doing this summer will tell you that the club truly understands the power of marketing. The seemingly-fledgling club moved to Cairo, and can now call the 30,000 seater June 30 stadium their new home. Even the logo and team colors weren’t safe, and have been rebranded completely. They even rebranded the club crest to say "Established in 2018". All in all, it’s a completely new club.
Just for players coming in, Pyramids FC has already spent €32 million this summer, buying up talented players on the domestic level, but also shopping abroad and bringing as many as five new players from Brazil, one of whom was shortlisted for the Brazilian squad in this summer’s World Cup. It’s not every day that football players leave Brazil for om el donya, but you know what they say: money talks. I guess you could say Pyramids FC is giving them an offer they can’t refuse. The club is already breaking records, though not on the pitch, as they’ve already spent €32M (approximately EGP 538M) on 23 players, an all-time African record for spending in one transfer period. On the other hand, they’ve only made €320,000 (approximately EGP 6M) on player sales.
Today, professional football is full of moguls, tycoons and oligarchs; in the last decade or two, billionaires have gone all out in the world’s most popular sport, spending billions of dollars in the process.
Pyramids FC is “doing a PSG in Egypt” – or at least that was Al Ahram’s view of it, comparing billionaire Saudi Arabian club owner Turki Al Sheikh’s takeover of Pyramids FC to that of Qatari Nasser Al Khelaifi’s at Paris Saint Germain just a couple of years ago, a man famous for making big-name transfers, such as the highly-marketable Brazilian superstar Neymar 2 years ago.
Turki Al Sheikh and Pyramids FC certainly understand the power of marketing. – the club is highly active on social media, like Instagram, and makes sure to capitalise on big name additions joining the club or TV channel. They’ve even gone as far as promoting Pyramids FC by plastering their logo in Times Square, obviously including Ronaldinho, and of course, they were quick to post a photo of it on their Instagram page.
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What’s even more interesting though, is how Pyramids FC has infiltrated traditional media with the creation of Pyramids FC TV, a new channel that will be airing all the team’s Egyptian league matches, as well as 15 Al Ahly and Zamalek matches. Upon releasing their new TV channel, the club hired massive international names to do punditry work on the channel, such as Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Robbie Keane and John Terry to analyse (at best) mediocre Egyptian league games.
They’ve also been helped by the media, with ridiculous player transfer rumours this summer, such as ex-Manchester city player Samir Nasri and the talismanic Zlatan Ibramovic, a rumour that was immediately quashed by club president Ahmed Hassan, which just proves how much noise it was making in the football world.
Signing new players is all good and well, but without a proper managerial backbone, the club isn’t likely to go far, and Pyramids FC hasn’t compromised on that either. Pyramids FC has hired Egyptian footballing icons to take up managerial positions; former Al-Ahly coach Hossam Badry is Club Chairman, most capped Egyptian international Ahmed Hassan is Team Supervisor, while former Al-Ahly defender Hady Khashaba is Football Director. The recently-appointed manager is world-cup winning goalkeeper Ricardo La Volpe, who managed Mexico in the 2006 World Cup. They've also recently appointed ex-Brazil international and AC Milan goalkeeper Nélson de Jesus "Dida" Silvaas as goalkeeping coach. The new Cairo-based club understands that just throwing money around is not the solution, focusing also on important managerial appointments.
Pyramids FC’s new revolution certainly has the potential to shake up the league in terms of competition. At the moment, the league has been won by African giants Al-Ahly nine times in the last ten competitions, and the other winner, you guessed it, was longtime local rivals Zamalek SC. After all, Russian billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich, having carried out a similar revolution at Chelsea Football Club in 2003, managed to win the much prestigious Premier League in his second season as club owner. Before joining the West-London based club, the competition had been won by two teams in the last nine competitions, Arsenal and Manchester United. In the 9 seasons after the Chelsea revolution, this number has gone up to four, with Chelsea now in the mix, as well as Sheikh Fahim’s Manchester City, a purchase that was definitely in part influenced by Abramovich in his purchase of Chelsea FC. All this to say that Pyramids FC potentially has the power and finances to raise the Egyptian Premier League’s level, as giants Al Ahly will surely not bow down and allow to be second best, should that end up happening.
Just as in the Premier League in the last decade, Turki’s purchase of Pyramids FC may encourage other investors to get involved in Egyptian football, boosting the league financially. Nile Sports has described Pyramids FC as threatening to the African continent, claiming that they’re vying to change the face of African football.
It wouldn’t be ridiculous for anyone to suggest that money can buy you success. But that’s not all it takes, far from it.
Club owner Turki al-Sheikh is clearly pumping millions into Pyramids FC, and many will have made the comparison with other clubs worldwide, as "billionaire owners" are an epidemic in football and have been for the last 15 years. There are many who are critical of this scheme, claiming that the club is just “buying success”, but this is the new way, as seen worldwide, and it’s a system that’s here to stay and to become the norm. It’s only the beginning of this in Egypt, and others may follow suit.
Pyramids FC certainly won’t be loved by many, but the chances of success are definitely there, as the club has strengthened the squad with some good local and international players, but have also laid out a strong managerial backbone. They’ve unquestionably made a huge statement of intent in Egyptian football, and while many will wish they fail, they have everything set in place to be successful.