Salma Tarik’s on-pitch resume is impressive. Member of Egypt’s women’s national soccer team in the 2016 African Cup of Nations. Star player at Hofstra University. Head coach at St. Joseph’s College. A coach with the East Meadow Soccer Club.
But as a fan, Tarik, a Hicksville resident, recently had “the best experience I could ask for” as she attended the 2018 World Cup in Russia. During her time at the biggest sporting event in the world, Tarik took in seven matches, which included seeing her native Egypt play, and is already counting the days to the next World Cup in 2022 in Qatar.
“Attending the World Cup definitely exceeded my expectations,” Tarik told SleterFC.com. “Everyone was so nice and it was easy to get around. The transportation was good and buses from the train stations to the stadiums were free with our FIFA passes.”
Having reliable transportation to and from train stations was a vital component for Tarik during her time in Russia. Trains were the main form of transportation for her and companion, Anatoliy Taranenko, as they traveled from various cities including Rostov-On-Don, Samara, Saransk, Volgograd and Kazan. Some train rides were as long as 10 hours.
The matches she attended were Korea/Mexico, Costa Rica/Serbia, Colombia/Japan, Denmark/Australia, Nigeria/Iceland, Spain/Iran and Egypt/Saudi Arabia.
While noting the atmosphere at all matches was “great,” she pointed specifically to the match between Spain and Iran as one where the crowd was heavily into the game.
“Iran was clearly the underdog to Spain, but their fans were loud and so supportive of the team,” she said. “They gave Spain a good game (Iran lost 1-0) and the fans were great throughout the game.”
(Story continues below photo gallery. Photos courtesy of Salma Tarik.)
Seeing her native Egypt play at the World Cup was also a “dream come true” for Tarik. The Egyptian men were in the World Cup for the first time in 28 years and led by their star Mohamed Salah, who plays his club ball for Liverpool in the Premier League.
“Every time Salah touched the ball the crowd would rise and it was so loud,” she added. “At times it felt like he was the only one on the field.”
During each of the seven matches she attended in Russia, Tarik noted that the spirit among spectators was high and she reported seeing no problems among the tens of thousands of fans that packed into each stadium.
“Whether you were there supporting a team or not, everyone was friendly and congratulated each other at the end of matches. There were no fights, which was a little surprising,” she noted. “People were even picking up their garbage as they left their seats.”
While Tarik was at the World Cup as a fan, as an international player herself she also brings a unique perspective having participated with Egypt’s women’s national team in 2016 and scoring Egypt’s first-ever ACON goal.
“There is no better feeling than playing for your country,” she said. “And seeing the players out on the pitch for each country and knowing what it feels like gave me goosebumps. People watching at home also don’t realize just how loud the crowd is at the stadiums, which makes it difficult for players to hear their teammates and coaches.”
With the tournament now over and the World Cup trophy calling France home for the next four years, Tarik still has World Cup fever.
“There is nothing like the World Cup and I’m already planning for 2022,” she said. “It’s a great event and people of all cultures come together to create a strong sense of unity.”