COYA Sports 2013 – continuing a community tradition…

COYA Sports 2013

As the 2013 COYA Sports Competition kicks off, the ACM’s Anthony Hanna takes a look back at the golden years of Coptic football in Sydney.


When a tall, young and quite ambitious young man by the name of Andrew Girgis raised the notion of reviving COYA Sports for a big 2013, it made me think back to about 10 years ago when the St Abraam Soccer Fields in Macquarie Fields was the place to be on Sundays during the annual December/January competition.

The best way I could ever paint a picture for those who never got to witness the competition first hand would be to compare it to the Gladiator games in Rome’s Ancient Colosseum filled with all the highs and lows of the Olympics. Well, at  13 years old, that’s just what it felt like to us.

The soccer tournament was unsurprisingly the main event of the 2 month competition. At the time, the competition was split into 2 categories – the under 17’s and over 17’s. That’s right – before the whistle was even blown, cheating occurred. It amazes me until now how many players whom played in the under-17 competition sported heavy beards, weighed 90kgs and drove cars to the game with not a single P Plate in sight.  When the whistle was blown however, how old the opponent was became irrelevant. It could have been within only a few short moments after the game started, that the real issues began.

The Macquarie Fields Soccer Competition, as it was known back then, had all the makings for a disaster – dodgy refereeing, lack of organisation, violence, lack of sportsmanship and the Egyptian perception of  being ‘on time’ are only some irregularities to name a few. There was not a single week from memory during the 4 years I personally played in this tournament that went disaster free, especially the on-field violence. Here’s the best way to picture it – each team would start with 8 players each (the field was slightly smaller than the usual football pitch). At the peak of the game, when the first fist flew, the number on that field would double to 32, then to 64 and so on to join in the on-field ruffle. By the end of the game, you would probably get about 6 players from each team actually walk off the field – and I emphasise the word walk.

At the time, to a 13 year old boy, these were no different to Gladiator matches at Rome’s Ancient Colosseum but coming to think of it now – it wasn’t really that bad. Quite frankly, I put this down to passion and loyalty and whilst we could have smoothed things around the edges, our loyalty to our team (which was our church at the time) was second to none. The best comparison was a recount I heard on the Ancient Greeks. At the time, Greek societies made up by provinces such as the Athenians, the Spartans, the Arcadians etc were always warring with eachother however when Greece itself was under threat, they would join together as allies to defend their homelands. Similarly, I would be amazed by the strong loyalty within the teams when it came to the pitch, but when a combined Coptic team was formed, whether it be for Sydney Pharaohs or the Sydney – African Cup of Nations Tournament, players whom were former enemies now have a new common enemy.

This was the competition that was never meant to happen but despite this, some of us may admit that these were some of our fondest memories growing up. Living in North-Western Sydney, Macquarie Fields was quite a distance and being 13, we obviously didn’t drive. As young lads, our only real form of transport was through the guys whom we looked up to at the time. These were the older guys that played in the over 17 tournament – the guys with the cash, the cars and what we thought at the time, the lifestyle. It was mainly because of them that we looked towards Sunday all week. A typical Sunday involving these guys consisted of:

9:00am: Finish Church, then find something to pass the time with your mates for 4 hours to get picked up.

1:00pm: The ‘Ferrari’s’ arrived. Whilst in reality they were hotted up 200sx’ and Suby’s, to a 13 year old, they were red horses.

2:00pm: Finally leave and somewhat legally drive 110km/hr for a 2:30pm start.

3:30pm: The game actually started because the first game started an hour late (a syndrome known commonly as ‘Egyptian timing’)

6:00pm: Wait for the senior guys to finish their game then make the journey home.

6:30pm: Make a pitt stop at Hungry Jacks/McDonalds – paid for by our idols. This would be followed by watching a movie on the in-dash DVD player connected to what I probably estimate to be a dozen speakers.

7:00pm: Get home and prepare for school the next day.

Until now, these guys probably have no idea just how much of a significant contribution they made to what may have been a short but memorable aspect of growing up. So personally, and on behalf of those who played with the St Abanoub under 17’s team 12 years ago, I personally would like to thank Wagdy & Wael Hanna, Sammy Moussa, Marcus Samaan, Mina Soli, Tony Mikhail, Mark Ghobriel and all those whom took the time and put in the effort to get us involved and for driving us too and from the venue over the years.

The 2013 COYA Sports Competition is a continuation of our community’s history and I am assured that Andrew and his team will not tolerate the mild atrocities from the yesteryear’s. Albeit it hasn’t been as publicised as much as it used to be, we should encourage active participation within our community of sporting tournaments and events. The Australian Coptic Movement Association has planned for the revival of Sydney Pharaohs in the long term – a fully functioning, all age Club that can garner talent within our community and teach us the values of health, fitness and teamwork.

For more information on COYA Sports 2013, you can find out more via regular updates on facebook by searching ‘coyasportssydney’. You can also find your nearest COYA rep on the page for more information. Competitions kick off in March 2013 and registrations are closing soon.

Despite everything, I would go back and do it all again.


Anthony Hanna is a member of The Australian Coptic Movement Association working within the finance and  administration area as well as media and public relations. A full time Accountant, Anthony focuses on the  community development side of the ACM’s programs and initiatives with the aim of empowering and promoting  the  notion of Coptic Identity.


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