After completing her first season as head coach of St. Joseph’s College (L.I.) women’s soccer team this fall, Salma Tarik is spending part of her offseason on the pitch with the Egyptian women’s soccer team competing in the 2016 Confederation of African Football Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (ACON).
Running from November 19 through December 3, the eight-team tournament is being held in Cameroon. This year, Egypt will be making the team’s second appearance in the tournament and its first since 1998. The Pharaohs will face Cameroon, Zimbabwe and South Africa in the group stages, with the top two teams advancing to the knockout stage.
“I’m honored to be playing with the Egyptian National Team and represent my country,” said Tarik. “The experience is something special and I’m always excited to be a part of another culture. It’s something special when you put on that jersey and know you’re representing your country.”
A graduate of Hofstra University and former coach with the East Meadow Soccer Club, Tarik recently spoke with SleterFC.com just before the start of the tournament about the opportunity to play in ACON as well as her first season at St. Joseph’s
SLETERFC: It’s been 18 years since Egypt has participated in the women’s ACON tournament. How excited are you to be participating and representing Egypt?
SALMA TARIK: The level of excitement in participating with the Egyptian National Team in the African Cup is something I didn’t know would happen. It has been 18 years since Egypt has made this tournament and to be able to still play and be a part of this with them is surely something special. Everyone is very excited to be (in the tournament) and compete in the upcoming matches. It is a huge achievement to make the tournament, now we just have to perform well.
SFC: We have seen women’s soccer grow a great deal in the United States. How has the sport grown on the women’s side of the game in Egypt and other parts of Africa?
ST: There has been a drastic growth in women’s soccer in Egypt and other parts of Africa. When I first started playing with the Egyptian National Team, I was 17 years old and it was very “old school.” When I return, usually once a year if my schedule allows, I have seen an increase with the youth teams and youth coaches. They have also started a program to try to get some of their players to America to play college, which I think is amazing. When I was younger, girls weren’t really “allowed” to play sports and now you see them playing at such a young age. It’s amazing to see the transition. Some of the current players are also pursuing coaching, which is unbelievable to see as usually it’s male dominated. Having this as an option for them is inspiring.
SFC: In information provided by St. Joseph’s about your participation in ACON, you mentioned that there are differences in coaching styles and methodologies. What are the main differences?
ST: There are different coaching styles and methodologies within the Egyptian National Team. Some differences from the United States would be the types of fitness tests. We do fitness, but it’s not really considered a test or a certain goal you have to reach. I would also say the technology aspect of watching the opponent on film is a lot different than in the U.S. It could be broken down better by using different software to really narrow down the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. The national team has become a lot more professional than when I was 17. The discipline has shifted drastically, but I still think there could be more discipline, but again there isn’t a massive abundance of a player pool. I love the fact they sometimes ask for my opinion as they know I am the head coach at St. Joseph’s and with East Meadow Soccer Club, while having my USSF “C” License. They know coaching is my full time career and being asked my input for any national team is really an honor.
SFC: Back on Long Island, you just completed your first season as head coach. What was the experience like? What steps are you taking as head coach to further build the women’s program at St. Joe’s?
ST: I have just finished my first season as a head coach and it was the best experience for me. I learned a lot about the personnel on the team, while also learning a lot about myself. St Joseph’s College is an on the rise school and the steps I am taking to further build the women’s program is to recruit, recruit, recruit! I am excited to have a proper spring season, something they have not yet experienced. The girls are very excited for their spring season and we have a ton of ideas for them to make it very professional. There were a lot of positives from the fall season and they liked the professionalism and structure my staff and I provided.
SFC: One of the biggest challenges for a smaller school such as St. Joe’s is recruiting. But given the strength of soccer on Long Island, how challenging is it to find talent and attract them to the school?
ST: It is always difficult to find talent and attract them to any school. Being that St. Joseph’s College is a small school without dorms makes it harder to recruit, but not impossible. As I mentioned earlier, we are on the rise with exciting things to come our way. Our academics and facility sell itself to a lot of the local talent on Long Island. Some student-athletes want to stay home for college and not go away, so St. Joseph’s College could be a great balance for them. We are very academic-oriented, affordable, and have great facilities. It’s tough to find any college or university with all three.