Bucks or bust for Hossam
EGYPT’S Youssef Hossam, the only tennis player in Africa and the Arab world on the world junior rankings, is struggling to find a sponsor to support his promising career.
The African junior champion from 2014 to 2016 is 334th on the ATP rankings, but a promising 22nd in the world junior rankings.
Yet the player and his coaches say all this talent may fail to reach its potential without a sponsor to finance a team to guide Hossam towards his dreams.
The 19-year-old is studying English at Misr University for Science & Technology in Cairo’s western suburbs. He spends most of his time on the university’s tennis court with his older brother Karim.
English “is the least restrictive of the studies in terms of attendance”, said a smiling Hossam, who chose tennis in a country where football is the national sport.
“I liked the idea of playing in a discipline little practised by others,” boasted the youngster from Cairo who dreams of playing at Wimbledon.
Though Hossam, who often trains in France, was initially following in his older brother’s footsteps, he quickly surpassed him.
“Roger Federer is my idol but my greatest role model is still my brother,” he said after a training session with his brother under Cairo’s harsh September sun.
Kerei Abakar, his coach at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Nice, sees him as a potential champion with “an above-average technique, an arm of fire”.
Still, his coach stresses that “an exceptional potential does not make a tennis player”, adding that “Youssef Hossam misses structure, framework, and sponsors to match his own level”.
His casual tennis partner Marius Barzu, a Romanian tennis coach at Hossam’s university, expressed reserved enthusiasm.
“Three years ago I used to beat him 6-0, 6-0. Today, it’s the opposite. His progress is impressive,” said the former athlete.
“He could be among the top 100 players in the world, but the challenge for him now is to find a financial backer who would make him a star.”
He does have a Japanese brand backing him, Yonex, but it only provides him with clothing and equipment.
Hossam, who lives in an upscale neighbourhood in Cairo and drives a Jaguar, shows maturity with his focus and realistic approach to his goals, which he knows he is able to follow thanks to the financial support of his father, who owns a large furnishing company.
But the funds of an upper income family in Cairo cannot compete in international tennis.
“I’m optimistic. Things are going well for me,” he said. – afp