Known as “the Egyptian Queen” by her loyal Stoke City fans, Sarah Essam wants to achieve her lifelong ambition of playing for her country but also complete her engineering studies.
The 21-year-old became the first Egyptian woman to play professional football in England when she arrived at Stoke City in 2017. She had already been making headlines in her home country when she was chosen at the age of just 16 to play for Egypt during their preparations for the 2016 CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
As Stoke’s top-goalscorer, scoring 12 goals in 12 games for the club, Essam has now made her mark in the UK during her time in the FA Women's National League North.
"Just playing in England would’ve been a great first step in the career I aspire for, but becoming my team and the league’s top scorer is huge and will motivate me to keep working hard," Essam told FIFA.
Stoke City’s Golden Boot winner juggles her training commitments with her civil engineering degree at Derby University and admits that while it requires huge levels of dedication, her education is something she will never give up on.
“I’ve put a lot of effort into football, but I never gave up on my university studies. I’m studying civil engineering in England despite many people telling me it’d be difficult to reconcile football and college.
“I decided to take up the challenge and I continue to do my best on both fronts. I want to serve my country by playing professionally, and I also want to earn a college degree for my future.
"I’ve decided to devote my life to my passions. Even on holidays, I’m not on my sofa watching TV, but rather exercising to stay in good shape. I don’t think of this as a sacrifice, as I’m doing what I love."
An international ambition
In 2018 Essam won the 2018 Arab Woman of the Year: Achievement in Sport award from the London Arabia Organisation, a marker of just how significant her achievements have been.
"I’m very proud to have won the award, especially since I’m the first Egyptian to receive this honour. My performances drew attention from many individuals and institutions. I was also part of the commentary team for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations staged in Egypt. These experiences make me more confident to continue working in a variety of fields."
Sharing her knowledge and experience from playing in the English league is top of Essam’s agenda and she hopes she can use her time in England to push her Egypt side into the next FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time.
"I also hope to capitalise on these accomplishments and experiences and pass them to the other players in Egypt. Hard work over a long period will bring us success, and I hope my team-mates and I can realise the ultimate feat of getting Egypt to the FIFA Women’s World Cup."
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