Causing a commotion
Tragic hero or irrational egotist, Mortada Mansour moved sports into a different sort of court
2005 saw the astounding rise and fall of Mortada Mansour. Love him or hate him, everything Mansour touches smacks of drama: in victory and defeat, he acted, for want of a better word, "passionately". His short temper and verbal abusiveness often forced rivals to take extreme measures; more often than not, Mansour has taken legal action against those who have gotten in his way.
The year began with Mansour running against Kamal Darwish for the presidency of the Zamalek Sporting Club. Long before ballot day, the bitter rivalry between the two candidates was played out on the airwaves and in the press: each hurled accusations against the other, highlighting financial irregularities as evidence of corruption and abuse of power. Mansour topped it off by publishing a big black book entitled Against Corruption -- stuffed with shocking stories about Darwish -- which he distributed amongst the club's members for free. In one of the most controversial presidential elections ever witnessed by the club, Darwish -- who had been president for nine years -- conceded defeat to his adversary Mansour. There was a difference of only 372 votes.
But the action didn't stop there. Three months later, Mansour was implicated in a major incident involving the club's security staff allegedly beating up another Mansour adversary: the club's vice president, Ismail Selim. Selim had been prevented from entering the club, apparently because he had objected -- two months earlier -- to the manner in which Mansour was running Zamalek. The board revoked his membership in his absence. Selim and his men retaliated by heading straight for Mansour's office. The resulting gangland-style fight, which seriously damaged the club's 90-year-old reputation, is currently being settled in court.
The bad blood between the president and his deputy was just an appetiser to the woes that soon engulfed Zamalek. Less than a month later, the venerable club yet again found itself in crisis. After Mansour verbally abused the president of the Egyptian Handball Federation (EHF), Zamalek's federation membership was cancelled. The EHF said Zamalek would only be allowed to return to the federation on condition that Mansour be removed from his position as club president. In response, Mansour -- somewhat outlandishly -- defied the ban and presented his own club with a trophy. The deadlock was finally resolved by Sports Minister Mamdouh El-Biltagui, who suspended the EHF's decision, and asked Mansour to apologise.
Needless to say, the club's soccer team was not exempt from the commotion. With Mansour's dictatorial style and irrational behaviour in full swing, he hired a coach, and then fired him at the beginning of the season. He hired another coach, attacked him verbally, and then fired him as well. In an unprecedented move, the team's captain -- a pretty decent player -- threw his captaincy badge on the ground and stormed off the pitch. It was all getting to be too much.
Following Zamalek's October loss to archrival Ahli, Mansour launched into a tirade against Ahli and its fans when his daughter was shot and injured by an unknown assailant.
After wreaking havoc on every field, Mansour -- who was also seeking re-election as an MP -- could only apologise profusely. In the parliamentary elections, many claimed that Ahli and Zamalek fans alike chose not to vote for him because of his volatile temperament and poor decision-making. Not surprisingly, he lost his seat.
To be fair, Mansour did manage to implement some positive changes. The club's facilities, including its lavatories, gardens, courts and gates -- previously in dismal condition -- were significantly improved. His financial dealings have always been above board, and millions are now sitting securely in the Zamalek Club safe, which had previously been pretty much empty.
In an attempt to repair some of the damage, the sports minister decided to dissolve the board, appointing another to run the club for a year. Mansour, unable to accept defeat, entered the club with almost 3000 members who carried him on their shoulders, chanting that he was still loved.
Hard-headed as usual, Mansour battled for what he perceived to be his right to head the club (albeit briefly), in complete disregard for the club itself and its long and fabled history. What he failed to realise is that, regardless of whether or not he is a victim of circumstance or bad publicity, the real loser was and remains Zamalek, and its diehard supporters.