Could this Company Open Doors for Student Athletes in the Middle East?

An Egypt-based startup is helping students receive sports scholarships in the United States.
Could this Company Open Doors for Student Athletes in the Middle East?
Ali El Thokhy playing squash.

Applying to university is a complicated and stressful process, especially when applying abroad. In addition to submitting all the necessary application forms and paperwork, students have to go through the hassle of applying to live in another country and deciding if living in a new environment is the best thing for them. When applying to American universities specifically, the hundreds of different scholarships offered, and competitive application processes complicate matters further. 

Founded in 2018 by Nada Zaher, pas-sport is Egypt’s first online service that connects student-athletes with sports universities abroad. Zaher, who was granted a tennis scholarship at Columbia University in the United States, became frustrated when submitting her college applications as she began to realize the significant lack of support from schools and sports clubs alike in helping her reach her desired goals. Zaher noticed and stated specifically that, “Athletes in Egypt receive little attention”. However, upon returning to Egypt, she decided to use her personal experience to help aspiring student-athletes in the MENA region who were just like her.

Pas-sport’s website allows students to sign up and create a free profile, detailing their educational and sports background. At the same time, recruiters can submit their academic and athletic requirements and connect with the students that are the best fit for their sports scholarships. pas-sport helps students every step of the way: from deciding which universities to apply to, how to get the right scholarships, and making sure students have the best chance of success. The startup also helps foreign university recruiters save on expensive flights to the region and overcome any cultural differences to connect with the Middle East’s top student-athletes.

Since its founding, pas-sport has helped over 800 athletes apply to over 130 universities. So far, 20 students have obtained scholarships with the majority covering all of the student’s tuition, accommodation and school supplies. One such success story is Ali El Tokhey, who won a scholarship to study at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. As one of Egypt’s top squash players, Zaher informed Ali of the massive benefits on offer by studying abroad. El Tokhey would be able to use the professional support at American universities to take his squash career to the next level. Within two months of submitting his application, he was accepted, becoming one of the first Egyptian sports students to study at the university.

Zaher and her team at pas-sport had to overcome numerous hurdles to encourage students to study abroad. Most Egyptian parents aren’t aware of the range of scholarships offered in the United States and how much they can reduce expensive tuition fees. Understandably, parents are also hesitant to send their children thousands of miles away to study. However, through its educational programs, pas-sport is increasing awareness of the huge opportunities on offer to the region’s top student-athletes.

“Unfortunately, athletes in Egypt receive little attention. Even when they become professional, they don’t have a proper support system or proper training. We want to reach out to people in governorates and start helping competitive young athletes.”

Nada Zaher, Founder, pas-sport

Zaher plans on expanding their service across the Middle East and North Africa and wants to start working with athletes from a much younger age, informing their parents of the importance of considering studying abroad. Moreover, she intends on targeting aspiring athletes in poorer communities by helping them elevate their level of English – essential for studying at any American university. Soon, by assisting students with securing sports contracts, internships and attending sports camps, pas-sport will become the go-to support network for the region’s student-athletes.

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