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Presidential honour
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 11 - 2018

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has bestowed Order of Sports Merit on Egypt's squash team which won the World Team Squash Championship in China in September, as well as the football team which took the bronze medal at the First Special Olympics Women Unified Football World Cup held in Chicago in July. The president also distributed medals to the technical staff of the two teams.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Wali and Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhi attended the awards ceremony.
Egypt's Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi said that Al-Sisi had hailed the players' achievements and their contribution to holding up the image of the country in sports.
The president expressed appreciation for the Egyptian athletes whom he described as role models for youth, the spokesman added.
Al-Sisi directed that all needed support be given to the Egyptian champions to help them achieve more, Radi noted.
The president conferred the Order of Sports Merit on the champions, greeting them and the technical committees that were responsible for training them.
Concerning the Special Olympics team, they were bestowed with the Sport Merit of the third level. The team comprised Ekrami Al-Gamal as technical manager and Fayza Heider the coach.
The players: Yasmine Mohamed, Yasmine Abdel-Radi, Hadeer Ashraf, Aya Ahmed, Sama Ahmed, Rahma Ramadan, Bassant Abdel-Aziz, Shorouk Said, Merna Mohsen and Aliaa Shokri.
Rounding out the team was Ayman Abdel-Wahab, Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa regional president and managing director, Hani Mahmoud, Special Olympics Egypt president and Bassem Al-Tohami, SO Egypt national director.
“It is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Ramadan said. “I could not believe it that I will meet and shake hands with the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. It was a dream that came true thanks to the Special Olympics movement that made me an athlete who is honoured in international events , received by the president, and people are proud of me, instead of being a neglected child before joining the Special Olympics movement. I hope we will be able to win the gold next time and also meet the president.”
Al-Sisi congratulating squash star Nour El-Tayeb (below)
“There are no words that could express my feelings today,” Abdel-Wahab said. “President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has always supported our athletes with intellectual disabilities. He was the first president to inaugurate their MENA Games just a few months after he took over as the newly elected president. The honouring by the president is a practical assurance that Egypt's athletes with intellectual disabilities are part of the Egyptian society and they are in the heart of the president. This ceremony assures us of this as both the squash players and the mentally disabled athletes were honoured on the same day at the same moment side by side.”
Abdel-Wahab added that it was the first time that the Special Olympics athletes receive an official sports merit “which sets an example for the world and increases social awareness with people with intellectual disabilities. This will be reflected positively on our movement as it sheds more light on the great role played by the Special Olympics movement worldwide as it attracts more athletes to the movement.'
Mahmoud added: “The ceremony has a lot of significance for all of us as it comes at the end of 2018, the year that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi specified for the disability. It also shines the spotlight on the great role played by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, headed by Ghada Wali, in the social inclusion of the people with intellectual disabilities in society.
On her twitter account, SO athlete Shokri was quoted as saying, “One of my personal achievements in 2018 is being honoured by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. I also thank Special Olympics Egypt for giving me the opportunity to be part of this marvelous team that was able to win the bronze medal in Chicago. It was such a great experience that I have learnt a lot from.”
Simultaneously, President Al-Sisi awarded the squash women's team the First Class Sports Medal after the recent World Cup win in China.
World No 1 Raneem Al-Welili expressed her happiness after being received by the president. “Thank God. A great honour for me to get the third First Class Sports Medal while being honoured today with the Egyptian women's squash team. It is a great feeling to feel that we are in the heart of president among all his duties and responsibilities. Thank God I was able to recapture my rank as world No 1 and this honour will push me forward to win more titles for my beloved country, Egypt.”
Egyptian Squash Federation President Assem Khalifa, member of the board of directors Hani Hammouda, Minister of Youth and Sports Sobhi, Amr Shabana, the team's coach, and players Nour Al-Sherbini, Al-Welili, Nour Al-Tayeb and Noran Gohar attended the ceremony.
“It was a great honour for all of us and for all squash players to continue their progress,” Khalifa said. “Egypt has been on top of world squash for a long time and such honour and appreciation by the top officials gives a push for all youth and squash athletes that they should give more and work harder to be recognised as their teammates.”
Al-Tayeb tweeted after the event. “I don't think I can ever join a better squad or be part of a more star-studded team than this. I am really proud to be honoured today by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.”

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