Rogério Dantas, a 23-year-old native of the southeastern Brazilian state of São Paulo, arrived in Egypt for the first time on June 18th – and he did not go on leisure. He was hired by an Egyptian soccer team, the Cement Suez, and has already started training. The only reason why he is not playing yet is because his documentation at the Brazilian Soccer Federation (CBF) is not cleared yet.
But he should debut in the next game of the Egyptian championship, on August 25th. Before going to the Arab country, Rogério played for eight years in the base categories of the Brazilian soccer team Palmeiras, which he joined at 14 years of age, and also played for Londrina and Itapirense.
The player, who is a midfielder, is the first of many Brazilians that will be exported to the Egyptian soccer. At least this is the desire of businessman Mohamed Youssef Mostafa, who took Rogério there. Born in Brazil and living in Egypt since 13 years of age, Mohamed wants to recruit around 100 Brazilians by mid-next year.
The businessman explains that he had selected two other players, but one went to England and the other to Korea. Nicknamed "Jo" in order to make it easier for Egyptians to pronounce his name, Rogério has already even featured in the local media, in the newspaper El MASRY El Youm.
Rogério's story only worked out due to a series of coincidences. His agent, Antenor Joaquim, was seeking a channel with the Arab world. Then he remembered his friend Maria Izabel Costa, who owns a tourist agency that specializes in Egypt, and asked her if she knew someone there that could provide that link.
Isabel put Antenor in touch with Mohamed, with whom she already has a partnership in the field of tourism – The Brazilian-Egyptian receives the groups that Isabel sends to the country. Since he also works with soccer, the connections were promptly established.
Antenor, who usually sends players to Portugal, sent 40 DVDs containing images of professionals for Mohamed to analyze, but only one, Rogério, reached the final destination, Cairo."
It was an excellent deal. It was a little difficult, because it was the first one. In Egypt, they want things to happen fast, and here in Brazil things take a little while to happen, everything at CBF involves red tape. But it worked out," says Antenor.
To him, players who are not very well known have greater chances of standing out and heading on to the European soccer when they are playing in the Arab countries. If they stay in Brazil, then the visibility is lower. Mohamed confirms: "There are many talent-seekers here, and since Egypt was the African champion last year, it has been attracting attention."
Rogério himself, who has a three-year contract, plans on leaving to the European soccer. But for now, he is celebrating his chance in Egypt. "It was a very good proposal, a new opportunity. I am very happy," says he, who shares an apartment in Cairo with an Egyptian player.
During practice, he uses his scarce knowledge of English to understand what the technical commission translates to him from the Arabic. The son of a farmer and a domestic worker, Rogério left his family feeling sad when he announced that he was leaving. "But at the same time they were glad. After all, they know that I have always wanted to play soccer."
Mohamed Youssef is young like Rogério, he is only 24, and even attempted a career as a player. But his penchant for business was stronger. Nowadays, the boy who graduated in engineering has become a professional in the fields of tourism and soccer.
He has influential friends, and was invited by the Egyptian Ministry of Sports a few years ago to help in the campaign for the 2010 World soccer Cup to be held in Egypt. The country that won was South Africa – Egypt did not earn a single point.
But the episode left him with even more contacts in the field. Currently, his company, Nahhas Agency, which he owns with his partner and long-time friend Tamer Saeed El Nahas, manages over 300 players – the vast majority of whom, 264, is Egyptian.
Mohamed met the Brazilian Izabel after reading a news report on her agency, Abbatour, which is based in São Paulo. He then contacted her and, skilled in the art of doing business, he proposed a partnership. From now on, Isabel is going to be his partner also in matters pertaining to soccer.
"I am only going to check around here if the player and agent are professionals, if there are no problems with them, and then I am going to send Mohamed the DVDs," she says.
Mohamed, in turn, explains why this work is important: "We have already called many boys who were not even professionals. Then, when they went to the clubs to get tested, they were not accepted, so they would return to Brazil and we would lose money." This is so because Nahhas pays for all of the players' expenses during the test period: housing, food, tickets, and even a cellular phone.
To Mohamed, who is proud of being born in Brazil, hiring players is only a part of the business deals that he wants to make between the two countries.
"Anything that can be done to bring Brazil and Egypt closer together, I will do," he says. "I believe that there needs to be more exchange between the two countries." If it depends on the young businessman and his Brazilian partner, more and more Brazilian tourists and players will go to the land of the pharaohs.
Anba – www.anba.com.br