Next season first
With the league title sewn up long ago, top gun Ahli have begun preparing for next year, writes Mohamed El-Sayed
Only three matches remain before the curtains are brought down on the Egyptian football season. As such, the teams have already started thinking about the season ahead.
Having secured the title several weeks ago, Ahli began planning for the future earlier than most teams. The Red Castle on Friday announced they had renewed the contract of their Portuguese head coach Manuel Jose for one more season. Jose, who led the Red Devils to their first league title since 2000, will be making $36,300 monthly.
"The negotiations took a very long time before Jose accepted a 10 per cent raise in salary instead of the 20 per cent he wanted before the talks," Adli El-Qiei, head of the marketing department at the club, said.
It could be that Jose was not all that happy with the new contract. On the day he signed he was suspended by the Egyptian Association after being sent off during his team's match against the Army team.
As for the players, Ahli re-signed their Angolan import Gilberto for three and a half years. Observers say Gilberto's salary hovers around $150,000 a year.
Ahli had signed the Angolan midfielder in 2002 from Petro Athletico of Angola for $600,000.
Ahli striker Khaled Bebo also signed on the dotted line on Wednesday last week. He will be making LE425,000 a year. Bebo has been sitting on the sidelines for most of the past two seasons following an ankle injury in 2003. Since the historic 6-1 victory over arch-rivals Zamalek in which he scored a record four goals, Bebo never was the same player. However, the reds' fans and management still indulge themselves in the hope that he might one day return to form.
Having beaten the Army 3-1 on Thursday, the Red Devils (65 points) take on another military team tonight, the Coastal Guards, who lie in fourth place with 36 points.
In Zamalek, also known as the White House, the picture is gloomy. There is a problem that cannot be obscured by mirrors or smoke: the board head and members are embroiled in exchanging accusations in their election campaign, leaving the football team reeling in their wake. The latest fall came against bottom of the table Mansoura 1-0.
Lagging behind in fifth place with a meagre 34 points and an unprecedented seven defeats, the season is proving to be Zamalek's worst.
In other matches, the oil company team Enppi punished Cement Suez 5-2 to stay in second place with 40 points. Ismaili drew with the Coastal Guards 1-1 and remained in third place with 37 points. Relegation-bound Cement Assiut managed a hard-fought 1-0 win over Tersana, Misri drew with Ghazl Al-Mehallah 1-1 and Baladiyet Al-Mehallah beat Ittihad 1-0.