Al-Ahram Weekly Online   8 - 14 April 2004
Issue No. 685
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Goal of his life

Egypt's newly-appointed football coach expresses his hopes and fears at a press conference. Nashwa Abdel-Tawab reports

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Perhaps no man has enjoyed scoring in a World Cup final as much as Marco Tardelli. For a few seconds after lashing home the second goal in Italy's 3-1 win over then West Germany in Madrid in 1982, the Juventus hardman seemed to lose his senses.

With tears running down his face, Tardelli shook his head as if trying to wake himself from an impossible dream, mouthing incomprehensibly to himself before his teammates dragged him to the ground to share the celebrations.

Tardelli, one of the toughest defensive midfielders of his era, deserved his moment. He was MVP in the final and had been one of the players of the tournament. After under-performing in the first round, Italy came alive with wins against Argentina and Brazil. Tardelli raced through to score the opening goal as defending champion Argentina was beaten 2-1, and then played a key role in Italy's classic 3-2 success against tournament favourite Brazil.

Tardelli had been a regular for Italy since the mid-1970s, brought in after the debacle of 1974 when the Azzurri failed to get past the first round. In Argentina in 1978 he helped Italy restore its reputation by claiming fourth place.

He ended his playing career with 80 international caps, six goals and one World Cup.

Now Tardelli has a new World Cup challenge: leading Egypt's qualifying campaign for the 2006 finals.

As a coach, the 49-year-old has led Inter- Milan, Bari and Italy's under-21 side. He now shifts to Egypt, Africa's most esteemed sporting nation.

Speaking in Italian, Tardelli told his first news conference in Cairo last week that he knew next to nothing about Egyptian players but added that he had been watching many videos of Egyptian games in an effort to acquaint himself more.

"Obviously, videos can't tell me everything I need to know about the players so I need to watch more league matches here in Egypt," Tardelli said, "For the time being I'll work with the players selected by the association but as soon as I've watched enough league matches I'll be in a position to choose my own players."

He also requested between 10 to 15 days with the national team before any important game, stressing that the mind is the decider of any game. "I'll do my best to improve their performance but I can't do it alone. I don't have a magic stick. I'll ask my players to use their brains to dictate their moves."

Before being introduced to the media, Tardelli signed on the dotted line with the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) in a deal reportedly worth $40,000 per month.

Tardelli's assistant coach and fellow-Italian player Gannini Luca will receive $5,300 monthly.

Tardelli replaces local coach Mohsen Saleh who was in charge of the Pharaohs at the African Nations Cup (ANC) finals in Tunisia earlier this year. Egypt exited after just the first round, prompting the coaching change.

EFA boss Essam Abdel-Moneim, himself new at the job, said that he chose Tardelli because "he has the experience and the right credentials" to revive the fortunes of Egyptian football.

Following the signing ceremony, Tardelli then watched the friendly international between Egypt and Trinidad & Tobago which Egypt won 2-1. He then embarked on a sightseeing tour of the country.

The Egyptian side against Trinidad was led by caretaker coach Fathi Mabrouk who on Monday flatly turned down the job as one of Tardelli's assistants, saying in a press conference that he could not work in a job in which his role was "unclear."

To prepare for the 2006 World Cup qualifiers beginning this summer, Mabrouk had recalled some players who were left out of the Egyptian squad which played in the ANC, most notably Hossam Hassan. Hassan was recalled for the first time in two years, his last international match being against Cameroon in the 2002 ANC quarter-final. Hassan, who will turn 38 in the summer, has scored 78 international goals for his country and was the most capped player in the world three years ago. The Zamalek forward's performance for his club in the last few matches has showed he still has a lot to offer for both club and nation.

Mabrouk had also given new players their first international cap, including Mohamed Abu Treika who scored his first goal for Egypt against Trinidad. Abu Treika has been in brilliant form since joining Ahli from Tersana during the winter break.

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