Egypt Secrets: One of them revealed – Ahmed Faragallah

Fram Gommendy Reports

“What is Egyptian success secret?”

Many factors of course. One of them being the Parents‘ dedication and monetary investment.

The Squash Coaches quality is a another factor – look at how many have been lured to the US….

But the fitness and overall mental/nutritional preparation is another one…

I’ll ask you several questions:

  • Who was the fitness trainer/coach for the first-ever Egyptian Team that won the Women’s World Team in 2008?
  • Who was fitness coach to Karim Abdel Gawad (WR1) from 2018 to 2020?
  • Who was fitness coach to Karim Darwish (WR1) from 2009 to 2011?
  • Who worked alongside Raneem El Welily from 2008 (WR20) until her retirement in 2020, as not only a fitness coach, but a mental coach, analysist and support?

The name is Faragallah!

Let’s listen to what Raneem El Welily had to say about Ahmed Faragallah – everybody calls him Faragallah though.

And if you don’t know who is Raneem El Welily, you are probably on the wrong site!

Raneem Retires

Raneem about Ahmed

Faragallah!!! What can I say about him.

Our journey started back in December 2008 before World Teams where Egypt won the title for the first time, Engy and Omneya were working with him at the time and it made sense that for the world’s preparations I worked with him as well.

I liked what I saw and decided to continue. I was still 19, back in the day, which was still considered very young, on tour, I mean. So my professionalism and discipline were not, you know, like at the end of my career. And he hadn’t spent that much time in the squash world yet, as well, so we grew together in terms of experience, professionalism, and discipline.

Ahmed challenged me at our sessions (obviously), and I challenged him all the time with my “whys” and “why nots.” And he always came back with patient and well-informed answers.

So, the chemistry was there, and bit by bit, it became more than just a coach-player relationship. I’m proud to say today that I consider him an older brother.

And to this day, I would go back to him for advice. He was and still is very hard working, talented, decent and respectful friend, coach and support.

Just for you to realise how deep the relationship is between those two: I sent a little note to Raneem as she was about to give birth to Murad, her second son. She replied immediately, hours before giving birth. I kid you not.

Who is Faragallah?

Ahmed started with a PE diploma, then went on to a Master in Sport Injuries, also specialised in first aid and recovery for professional athletes. He started working in the squash fitness field in 2000 and never looked back.

2004 – when it all started

That’s when Faragallah met with Omney Abdelkawy. That was the starting point of a beautiful adventure in the World of Squash.

SquashInfo: Omneya Abdel Kawy ranking history

When they met, Omneya was WR16. When they stopped working together in 2011—as Faragallah started to work exclusively with Raneen from that point on—she reached her best-ever ranking of 4.

2008 – Egypt 1st time World Champion

Another milestone. Mohamed Medhat – who was at the time Egyptian National Coach – asked him to join the Women’s Team for the World Team event in Cairo.

And it was the first time of many victories for the Egyptian Team – Omney Abdel Kawy, Raneem El Welily, Engy Kheirellah, Heba El Torky.

And it was the Begining of a looooong domination….

Squashinfo: World Women Team winners

The success was enourmous and Faragallah decided to turn all his attention to squash. He started to work with Raneem along with other athletes in 2009.

2011 – Raneem exclusively

If as I said, Faragallah started training Raneem from 2009 as her private fitness coach, it’s only from 2011 he dedicated all his attention to her and to her only. And that, until her retirement – I can still feel the pain she inflicted on me on the phone, telling me she was pregnant, that’s not what hurt, and that she was retiring – in 2020.

2015 – Raneem World Number One

If you are young, you might not realise that Raneem was the first Egyptian sportswoman EVAH to reach the world number one status. Nobody, male or female, ever reached that level, and the success was HUGE.

And. She was the first player to dethrone Queen Nicol David.

The Egyptian Press went wild, we did a big splash – both on Nicol as the Legend she is, and Raneem, the Legend in the Making….

“I think it’s Raneem’s success that led to the success of all the Egyptian girls”, smiles Faragallah. Yes, the window opened with determination and panache by Dr Samiha Aboulmagd was transformed in a wide door by the “Butterfly” – Yes, she was the Enigma for the World, but Raneem was the Butterfly for Egypt- …

“The other girls saw the success of Omneya, then Raneem reaching the top, and they thought, yes, I can do it, it’s not a fantasy. I can do it. And they did. Nour El Sherbini started to beat everybody, so did Nour El Tayeb, then Hania El Hammamy, and all the new generation. All that is thanks to Raneem’s success.”

Talking about Butterfly…

“When I started working with Raneem, fitness was not an issue. She was extremely fit. So, we started working on details, on other specifics”, explains Faragallah.

“To be able to help, I studied Athlete’s specific movement, and also, kinesiology, to make sure we work on Raneem small height.

“She was facing tall players, at the time, Laura Massaro and SJ Perry for example, were much taller than her. So, we decided to “make her fly”, not move. Hence her Egyptian nickname, “The Butterfly”.

“So it was about handling your body in the air, in suspension. And it was not an easy task. It took us nearly three years to implement the changes in her day-to-day game to increase the elasticity of her movement.

“If you watch her matches, you will notice she never used her heels to push off the floor, she was moving a bit like a ballet dancer”.

Attention to detail

But Faragallah didn’t stop there. He went on working with a nutritionist, Hany Wahbah, and established with a specific program for Raneem.

“We became a real partnership, every day, I would follow what she was eating, how she would feel, training, resting. And also I was managing her career.”

But as so often, going up is less stressing that staying at the top, all the successful athletes would confirm it.

“Once Raneem reached the world number one ranking, she started worrying, overthinking. So we focused on mental preparation. And that was the hardest part.

“She didn’t want to lose her ranking, and starting putting far too much pressure on herself.”

Because she stopped wanted to win, and started not to lose, she lost. Incredibly, she reached the WR1 in June, and by the end of December, she was down at number 6.

“You know, she fell into depression, ‘I don’t want to lose, I don’t want to lose’. So from that point on, we focused on the mental side of the game, how to prepare your body, your brain before matches, working specifically on every single one of her opponents.

“But we never made it too serious, too heavy, we were always joking and laughing during our sessions, sometimes, not even talking about squash, just being there to support her. To allow her to relax. How do you feel? It’s ok to feel that like. Let’s see how we can make it less stressful, etc.

Breakfast with Raneem

“Sometimes, we met only at breakfast during the events, before the toughest matches”, he recalls. And sometimes, I would find her crying. For no specific reason. Just depression and worry. ‘I want to win, and I’m afraid, I want to stay at the top’, she would sometimes confess. And that would happen before most finals.”

Respect and Fair Play

“Two things that were paramount for Raneem were respect for her opponent and also winning with honour. She wanted to win, yes, but not at all costs. The right way. With fairness and fairplay.”

And Faragallah to conclude

“she is an amazying person you know”.

Yes. I know.

And then, Raneem retired

If Raneem’s retirement was a shock to us all – who retires at world number one (well only Dame Susan Devoy and Jonathan Power) – it was hard to Faragallah as well.

“To be frank, I felt that I retired too. We did a lot of things together, training working, going on tournaments. We won a lot of events, we lived bad things, good things. And I wondered what could I do now in Squash?

“The year that followed, I kept working with a few athletes, Karim Abdelgawad, Rowan Elaraby and a lot of juniors.

But two years after she retired, I stopped training the pros to turn my energy to a new project, “the Cave. I wanted to create something completely different, based on my experience and also what I felt the pros needed, in particular, a recovery centre. I wanted a place where coaching, recovery, physio, swimming pool, gym, everything would be at the same place”.

To create that unique place, Faragallah took the time to chat with many squash players, coaches, officials. ‘What you want as a player? What do you need? What do you wish to find in a sport centre?’

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“I lost something when Raneem retired. And now I have found something. I found myself. And I love what I created. And I realised something as well: I love the specificity of squash training. I love training, the fitness of squash, the art of squash movement.

“So And I started my own business: I designed a large and friendly gym, spa, a salt cave, with a swimming pool, an icebath, a physio clinic. And it took a few long months to build it.

I started to offer my service for some junior players and start to build up my academy. For the first game, I started working with a lot of juniors players.

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Camps all over the world

So Faragallah started coaching in different countries, including India, Malaysia (ACE), and African countries, particularly Nigeria, and also with the Farah Momen Academy

“My camps are not just about fitness, it’s also about the specifics of the squash player lifestyle. The ‘full package’! What we designed with Raneem, day after day, year after year, and step by step, can be transmitted and adapted to each and every athlete: match analysis, fitness, recovery, mental preparation, nutrition… “

So, this is one of Egyptian secret revealed. If you want to know how Raneem did it, maybe you should listen to what Faragallah has to say….

“Reaching number one, it’s not easy. You need to focus on every detail, nutrition, hydration, sleeping hours, recovery, lifestyle on and off the court, mental attitude, and fair play.

“It’s not about copying Raneem. It’s about learning how she did it to become the best version of yourself.”