At a very young age, Amro Tarek got the opportunity to move to Germany, a chance he saw to grow as a footballer in a country known to produce some of the best young talent in the European continent. As he looks back to this time period, Tarek knows that this was a time in his career when he learned many things about the game.
“Yeah, I think my first six months were a little bit hard, especially the city I was living in, Magdeburg, Germany,” said Tarek about his time with 1. FC Magdeburg’s U-19. “It’s in east Germany, and they didn’t speak English at all, so the only way to communicate with people was to learn German. It took me like six months to understand and to speak a little bit because I went to German school right away, took an intensive course of five hours per day. And then playing my first year I played Under-19 Bundesliga, so playing against the big teams like Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen, Hamburg, and Bayern Munich, all these kinds of teams, of course, it was amazing for me at this age, coming from Egypt, you know, it was like a dream.”
That first year in Germany was one where Tarek was able to showcase his skills, and he managed to get an offer from SC Freiburg.
“Then after a good first year, I moved to a Bundesliga team, SC Freiburg, and I think it was a very important step in my career to train at such a high level, to understand more tactics and to see better players around me,” he said. “I think it helped me a lot to grow as a player, especially tactic-wise. I remember I was understanding the game completely differently, and I remember the coach would always stop the game during training just to teach me in the beginning. It was a little bit annoying because every time he whistled, I knew he stopped for me just because I moved wrong, and I was doing the wrong thing. But after a couple of months, I started learning it, and I think it was very important to me.”
The demands at Freiburg were big because they’re a club known for producing top quality players in their Academy, Tarek observed. Once he arrived at Wolfsburg, he had a better understanding of the game in Germany.
“But then I realized how good this year [with Freiburg] was when I moved to Wolfsburg, which is a better team. I realized now, I'm just like them, technical-wise because I think soccer in Germany is very tactical,” said Tarek. “It's not only if you can kick a ball or you have talent, so I appreciate this year with Freiburg, it was like a learning year for me, and it changed the way I see the game.”
Before arriving in Germany, Tarek admits that he lacked strength and speed, but his time in Germany allowed him to improve those aspects of his game.
“Yeah, the first thing is physicality, I changed physically a lot. I wasn't that strong. I wasn't that fast when I was really young; this wasn't one of my strengths. Now I consider this one of my strengths -- my physique and speed. In Germany, the preseason is like hell, training is so hard, and I think it's different from any other place I’ve played,” he said. “I think it's very tough, so German players can run nonstop, and as I said, tactically, I think it's more how to understand, how to move in your position in the best way, how to move off the ball to be in the best spot to get the ball and how to move with the ball. So I think the two most important things that they focus on are the physique, and the tactical.”
But after spending close to four years in Germany, Tarek made the decision to move back to Egypt and play for El Gouna, which was a club coached by German Head Coach, Rainer Zobel. Tarek wanted first-team minutes, and Zobel promised him that he was going to get minutes under his watch.
“In the beginning everyone didn't agree with me that after being in Germany for almost four years to go back to Egypt, but I wanted to take this challenge because the reason I went back was because I had a German coach [Zobel], who called me and asked me to join his team,” said Tarek. “At the time, I was playing with the second team at Wolfsburg, and I wanted to take the next step in my career and play for the first team. I kind of saw I didn't have a big chance to play with Wolfsburg’s first team, so I took the challenge and went back to Egypt. The coach promised me and said, ‘I will send you back to Europe in one or two years.’ And I trusted him and he's the one who changed my position from left-back to center-back because I used to be a left-back, so he changed my position and told me I can reach a top level in this position.
“He believed in me and after one year, all the top clubs in Egypt wanted me like Al Ahly, Zamalek SC, all these clubs that play in the African Champions League. I waited one more year because I wanted to have a lot of games in the Premier League in Egypt before I make the next move. I wanted to go back to Europe, and that's what happened after two years with El Gouna, as the coach promised me before I joined that he will send me to Europe. It happened, and they sold me to Real Betis in Spain.”
Tarek’s move to Real Betis took place in the summer of 2015, and although he couldn’t find the playing time there, he took with him lessons learned from spending time with a La Liga team that puts around 50,000 fans in the stands every game. Tarek notes that the pressure from the fans is something the club feels after every bad result, and it’s one of the reasons there’s not enough time for new players to adapt.
After his experience in Spain, he moved briefly on loan to Columbus Crew, then went back to Egypt to play for Enppi SC and Wadi Degla. Then came the opportunity to play for Orlando City, which helped him land an opportunity to play for the Red Bulls. Here at the Red Bulls, Tarek appreciates the foundation and philosophy the club has developed through the years, and certainly his time at Germany has allowed him to quickly understand the club’s playing style.
“I think with the Red Bulls we have to run, we have to be strong and we have to be fast,” Tarek concluded. “Playing in Germany and getting this ability -- the speed and the physicality -- helped me a lot.”