Ultimate Fever in the Land of Pharaohs

by | February 17, 2017, 6:30am 5

In the Spring of 2016, I was fed up with my job and ready to pursue a new life. I hadn’t traveled abroad much at that point, so I decided it was time to move to a new country for an exciting adventure. I’d been playing ultimate for about 8 years in many different capacities – starting a high school team in 2009, joining Entropy (Colorado School of Mines’ ultimate team) for a few seasons, organizing night pickup games, and participating in 9 MUFA (Madison Ultimate Frisbee Association) seasonal leagues. I knew I’d miss the sport, but I hoped I could find ultimate wherever I went.

Cairo, Egypt became my adventure of choice after I heard about the refugees my sister and her husband were helping there. So I bought a one-way ticket and jumped on the plane.

The super crowded Cairo overwhelmed all my sensations. There seemed to be something happening at all times of day and night. In a city with 20 million inhabitants, silence is rare. In the large and noisy hub, I started searching to satisfy my addiction for ultimate.

After an online search, I found a couple of teams that claimed to play weekly in two different neighborhoods of Cairo near the capital. One of them had dissolved, but the other team practiced (and continues to practice) at a German school close to an easily accessible metro station. I learned later that this team had faced some problems finding a proper field to practice on, foreshadowing some future issues I’d face.

IMG_6175

During my first practice at the German school DEO (Deutsche Evangelische Oberschule), I met around 15 Egyptian players and a few foreigners. The practice consisted of a small warmup, some basic drills, and an hour of gameplay. I was happy to be playing pickup ultimate again, but I had hoped there would be more structure to indicate the team had been playing together for a long time or competed in local tournaments. After all, I’d been living in an ultimate-city for the past two years.

After a few weeks of practice with the same small warmup and basic drills, I learned that there are only around three more teams in Egypt, all with a similar number of players. It was surprising to me that Egypt, with a population of roughly 90 million inhabitants, had way fewer than 500 ultimate players. Coming from the small city of Madison, Wisconsin (where an average summer league has over 1000 players) to a massive city where far less than 1000 people play, I decided to try to make a difference. To my excitement, many of my new Egyptian teammates were eager to help by telling their friends about the sport.

At this point I united efforts with one of the newer ultimate players, Daniel, who had been introduced to the sport only a few months before my arrival in Cairo. His work mobilizing local Egyptian communities to solve healthcare problems gave him many ideas on how to spread the ultimate experience. We started working by mixing my knowledge of ultimate with his experience in engaging new communities to reach a new outcome – making ultimate accessible to every Egyptian while spreading the core values of inclusion, peace, and healthy living.

This is how Flying Disc Invasion (FDI) started. FDI is a fresh new multifaceted project with one main vision: to give every Egyptian the chance to throw a disc. We started partnering with Egyptian organizations that work in areas of health and sports. We created pages about the ultimate invasion on different social media platforms, a popular method for reaching Egyptians.

Once our social media presence was established, we started invading the streets, thus beginning our weekly “disc walks”. A “disc walk” is an event where some moderately experienced players walk through the streets and pass discs around. The purpose of these walks are to show locals that ultimate is not just a game that is played with your dog, and to give new players an arena where they can throw discs and learn about the game in a low-stress environment.

The weekly disc walks started gaining more and more attention as many pedestrians suddenly found themselves in the middle of an ultimate game. Many Cairo neighborhoods were witnessing flying discs for the first time.

After the systematic success of our first phase and making sure it was functional and sustainable, we created phase two – the Invasion Foundry. The Invasion Foundry is a 10 week intensive coaching program which empowers at least 10 potential invaders to lead around five new teams in their communities. Those who master the skills needed for team development will be deployed to spread the sport in their community, with 10 additional weeks of financial and logistical support from Flying Disc Invasion. We aim to establish at least 10 new teams in 10 different communities every year by mobilizing 40 young leaders who get back to their community and teach what they learned in the Invasion Foundry.

Historically, females in Egypt have had a difficult time getting into sports. There’s a large barrier to entry that has only been slightly cracked by gated communities, women-only teams, and liberal families. The team I currently play with is lucky to have the few women who consistently show up for practice, as there are no women-only ultimate teams right now. Many females get excited about a sport that promises exercise, teamwork, and fun, but most are not allowed to participate. This is why FDI has been working on a very exciting project – starting a women’s team. So far the response has been very positive as this initiative has the potential to impact a huge slice of Egypt’s population. We will begin planning logistics in March 2017 and we plan to get the team operational by the end of the year.

Flying Disc Invasion is not an ultimate Frisbee team. Its purpose is to plant a seed for an ultimate team in all Egyptian neighborhoods and communities. We are working to build a very dynamic, competitive and inclusive ultimate community in Egypt as a gate for the greater African and MENA regions.

IMG_5011

Would you like to help hundreds of potential ultimate players experience our awesome sport? We need your help! Please visit our website: www.flyingdiscinvasion.com and spread it among your ultimate gang. If you are looking for more ways to help, contact us at flyingdiscinvasion@gmail.com. Those who love the idea but don’t have the time or the energy to support with experience, skills or advice, you can contribute to the invasion financially through our sustainable crowdfunding platform www.givingloop.org/flyingdiscinvasion. We are aiming to collect $300 per month in order to reach our full potential and to spread ultimate to every corner of Egypt.

#JoinTheInvasion

Comments Policy: At Skyd, we value all legitimate contributions to the discussion of ultimate. However, please ensure your input is respectful. Hateful, slanderous, or disrespectful comments will be deleted. For grammatical, factual, and typographic errors, instead of leaving a comment, please e-mail our editors directly at editors [at] skydmagazine.com.

  • flatworld12

    Have you considered organizing a “destination” tournament like Boracay, Bangkok Hat or the famous Costa Rica Volcanic tournament. You could raise funds from proceeds of those tournaments. Egypt being a tourist destination already would help.

    • Ibrahim El-sayed

      In the past 5 years, Egypt has shown a drastic decline in tourism. So it didn’t seem like a good option. But with tourism coming back (slowly but surely) it would definitely be something to look at.

      The most difficult aspect would be attracting teams in the beginning.

      • Ryan Ruenroeng

        It may not be very difficult if it were hat with baggage. I think traveling abroad to a hat tourney with some tourism thrown in there would be awesome.

  • parinella

    I tried to bring a Frisbee into one of the pyramids in 2015 and the armed guard had no idea what it was. Some guide who was hoping for baksheesh pointed out that it was a toy, so the guard didn’t confiscate it, but I had to leave it outside.

    • Ibrahim El-sayed

      You played your cards wro
      ng! You should have told the guard it was a plastic plate. Belive it or not that has worked for me, He would have let you in.

      Speaking from experience