Football flop but Egypt on top
The Egyptian revolution caused long stoppages in training and unprecedented general disruption, ultimately leading to some predictable breakdowns, especially in soccer. But the uprising also made some athletes more determined than ever, none more so than in the Arab Games. Al-Ahram Weekly' s sports team reviews the past 12 months of upheaval and its results
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From top: Ahli coach Jose salutes Mohamed Mustafa, a protester killed at year's end; Ahli and Wydad of Morocco tie 3-3; pentathlete Aya Madani; the women's junior squash team takes the world WSF team championship in Boston; the men's squash team retained its title in the WSF men's World Team Squash Championship in Paderborn, Germany; swimming phenom Osman; discus Olympian El-Ghazali; bodybuilder Mabrouk
While the Pharaohs started the year by winning the first Nile Basin football tournament, by the middle of the year they were ousted in shocking fashion from the qualifications for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. It marked the first time in 33 years they would not be making an appearance at the tournament, considered the third most important football competition in the world after the World Cup and Euro Championship. The astounding elimination of the seven- time holders, including the last three in a row -- both records -- led to the resignation of head coach Hassan Shehata and his staff after leading the team for six years. By September, the Egyptian Football Association had signed up with former USA coach Bob Bradley to take over. Bradley's debut and only game thus far was against Brazil in a friendly in Qatar which Brazil won handily 2-0.
Later in the year, the U23 team under coach Hani Ramzi succeeded in making it to the 2012 London Olympic Games. The team returns to the Olympics after a 20-year absence. The last appearance was at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Other football highlights of the year were the return of Portuguese coach Manuel Jose to Ahli. In January, Jose officially took charge of Ahli for the third time after penning a contract estimated at 80,000 euros a year.
In the wake of the Egyptian revolution, protesters drew up a so-called blacklist of public figures they deemed were against the uprising and categorised as remnants of the toppled regime. Among the names were football figures who enjoyed close relations with former president Hosni Mubarak, including Egypt football coach Shehata, Zamalek coach Hossam Hassan and his twin Ibrahim, Egypt goalie Essam El-Hadari, Zamalek stars Shikabala and Mido, and TV sports presenter Khaled El-Ghandour.
In July, Ahli claimed their seventh consecutive domestic league football title with a game to spare. Due to an almost three-month stoppage in the league because of the January revolution, the league was the longest ever in Egyptian history, starting on 5 August 2010 and ending 11 July 2012.
But Ahli failed to reach the final of the African Champions League, a tournament they had won a record six times, by eventual champions Esperance of Tunisia.
In August, Egypt's U-20 football team was unable to get past Argentina, losing 2-1 to bow out of the World Cup and failing to qualify for the quarter-finals. In their group stage games, Egypt, whose best ever position was a third- place finish in the 2001 edition in Argentina, began with a shock 1-1 draw with Brazil, then edged Panama 1-0 before crushing Austria 4-0 to advance to round 16.
In October, unfancied Enppi avenged their 2008 defeat by upsetting Zamalek in the final of the Egypt football cup. Enppi came from behind to beat Zamalek 2-1 to claim their second Egypt Cup title.
The football power boys confirmed themselves as a dominant factor in and out of stadiums. The unique and enthusiastic support and joyful atmosphere they brought to soccer matches a few years ago this year became overshadowed by their insistence to use illegal flares which brought several forms of punishments to their respective clubs, including fines and matches without spectators.
The Ultras were also wholly involved in the revolution, perhaps helping cause a few of this year's bloody incidents. Tragedy struck when one of its members, Mohamed Mustafa, was shot and killed at year's end in a demonstration.
In October, in front of the Giza Pyramids, the 29th World Pharaohs Rally 2011 came to an end after the participants completed the final phase, stage 6, of the six-day event. In the two-wheel drive category, the French driver Jean-Louis Schlesser won the title for the fifth time and second in a row to prove he is one of a kind. With this new success, team Sonangol Schlesser took at the same time the 2011 world title in the two- wheel drive category, one stage before the end of the championship.
In the same two-wheel vehicle category, the Egyptian Rahalla team, led by driver Tarek El-Erian and navigator Mohamed Ali finished a surprising second which tallied their points in the world championship to second place directly behind Schlesser. Throughout the history of the sport it was a unique achievement for an Egyptian team.
It was a good year for the squash players with Egypt sensationally retaining their title in the WSF Men's World Team Squash Championship after upsetting favourites England 2-1 in a thrilling final in Paderborn, Germany.
The 23rd staging of the World Squash Federation event -- the first senior world championship since the IOC announcement that squash is on the shortlist for Olympic inclusion in 2020 -- took place in Germany for the first time.
With sell-out crowds throughout the week, the final between the top two seeds on the spectacular new blue all-glass showcourt at the Ahorn-Sportpark was the dream climax to an event which was being hailed as the best world championship ever.
A scintillating performance in the final of the Delaware Investments US Open in Philadelphia saw Egypt's third seed Amr Shabana upset favourite Nick Matthew to win the PSA World Series squash title for the second time in three years at the Daskalakis Athletic Center at Drexel University .
The 32-year-old from Cairo made an excellent start in his first appearance in a World Series final this year, thrilling the Philadelphia crowd with a series of winning shots that left world number one Matthew struggling
After winning just a single point in the opening game, Egypt's world No 2 Rami Ashour went on to overcome Matthew, the world number one from England, in four games in the final of the ROWE British Grand Prix to retain the PSA World Series squash title at the National Squash Centre in Manchester .
Egypt retained the men's and women's squash titles in the Arab Games after first-time triumphs by Tarek Momen and Raneem El-Weleili in the 2011 championships' finals at the Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex in the Qatar capital Doha.
Top seeds Momen, the men's world No 20 from Cairo, and El-Weleili, the women's world No 7 from Alexandria, led strong fields featuring players from Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. The favourites were keen to retain the titles won by compatriots Shabana and Engi Kheirallah in the 2007 Arab Games in Egypt.
The final of the men's PSA World Tour International 50 event featured the top two seeds -- Karim Darwish and fellow Egyptian Mohamed El-Shorbagi, the second seed. El-Shorbagi, the 20-year-old world No 9, was marking only his fifth appearance in a PSA Tour final, while his more experienced fellow countryman Darwish, the 29-year-old former world number one, was celebrating his 33rd. But El-Shorbagi made the top seed fight for 52 minutes before world No 3 Darwish, last year's runner-up, eventually prevailed 11-9, 11-9, 11-3 to celebrate the 20th Tour title of his career
El-Shorbagi justified his top billing in the Macau Open when he beat Frenchman Thierry Lincou, the No 2 seed, in the final of the PSA World Tour International 50 squash event at the Centro de Bowling do Complexo Desportivo Internacional de COTAI in Macau, China.
The 20-year-old world No 8 from Alexandria recovered from a game down -- as he had done in the previous three rounds -- to shake off veteran Lincou, the 35-year-old former world champion ranked two positions lower, 11-13, 11-5, 11-5, 11-7 in 60 minutes
After disappointment in the 2009 and 2010 finals, it was third time lucky for Nour El-Tayeb in the final of the 2011 WSF Women's World Junior Individual Squash Championship when she beat fellow Egyptian and former champion Nour El-Sherbini to win the World Squash Federation title at the Murr Center at Harvard University in Boston.
Markswoman Nourhan Amer captured a gold medal in the 10m air rifle for women at the 2011 African Shooting Championship held in Cairo from 15-25 October. The win made Amer an automatic qualifier of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Amer finished with a high score of 392 from 400 points, a new African record. Amer, 18, has been shooting for only three years. She also became the youngest Egyptian female shooter going to the Games.
Sprinter Amr Seoud was the only Egyptian track and field athlete who qualified with an A standard mark to the London Olympics in two events, the 100m and 200m. Seoud qualified after the first round heat in a time of 20.44 seconds in the men's 200 metres at the 13th IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea held from 24 August to 4 September. Seoud did not enter the final because he came down with the flu. Seoud qualified in the final of the men's 100 metres at the 10th All- Africa Games in 2011 in Maputo, Mozambique held from 3-18 September. Seoud finished first in 10.13 seconds a new Egyptian record. He was also the only Egyptian athlete who received a bye for the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey in March of 2012.
Omar El-Ghazali had an unlucky year. Although he qualified for London 2012 with a discus throw of 64.79 metres at Egypt's national championship held in Cairo, El-Ghazali injured himself while warming up in the 21st European Junior Championships in Tallinn, Estonia, in July. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detected inflammation in the pelvic bone which needed immediate treatment. The injury forced El-Ghazali to miss two important championships -- the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu and the Pan-Arab Games in Qatar. He returned to Egypt and was continuing his physical therapy with physiotherapist Ahmed Maged.
Karim Hossam reached the quarter-finals of the boys' singles event at this year's US Open tennis championship, a result not achieved by an Egyptian in almost 50 years. A player has to be among the top 100 in the world rankings in order to play in the four Grand Slam tournaments. Hossam, 17, is currently No 34 in the world in the ITF (International Tennis Federation) junior rankings.
Two-time Olympic pentathlon entrant Aya Medani would like to make it three consecutive Olympic Summer Games. The Egyptian champion readied for the feat after capturing a gold medal at the UIPM (Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne) World Cup Series in World Cup #3. German Lena Schoneborn took silver and Great Britain's Mhairi Spence the bronze. Medani and Schoneborn were only four points apart.
Egypt's special Olympians captured an overall 41 medals -- 13 gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze as the Special Olympics came to a close in Greece.
The winners were welcomed at the Egyptian Embassy in Athens and presented with certificates of appreciation for their efforts. Egypt's Ambassador to Athens Tarek Adel and his wife had been busy during the 10-day competition touring the venues and cheering the athletes on.
SO's Middle East and North Africa regional managing director Ayman Abdel-Wahab was pleased with the results of the Egyptians and the rest of the Arab countries especially since many were taking part in the Games during the so- called Arab Spring of people's revolts.
It was a merry year ending for Egypt's sportsmen and women after dominating the Arab Games.
The world's attention was focused on the most prestigious sports event in the Arab world, the 12th Pan-Arab Games, staged in Qatar from 9 to 23 December, not least because this was the first time the quadrennial multi-sport event was held in a Gulf state. The Arab Spring of revolts sweeping the region also placed this particular Arab Games in the spotlight. Egypt topped the medals list with 233 (90 gold, 76 silver and 67 bronze). Tunisia finished a distant second with 138 medals (54 gold, 45 silver and 39 bronze). Morocco stood third with 113 medals (35 gold, 24 silver and 54 bronze.). Qatar ended in fourth place with 110 medals (32 gold, 38 silver and 40 bronze) and Algeria fifth with 16 gold, 31 silver and 41 bronze.
The outstanding performance of the tournament came from Egypt's Farida Osman who won seven gold medals in the women's 50m and 100m freestyle, 100m and 50m butterfly and 50m backstroke. Two others gold medals were won in the 4Ç100 freestyle and medley relay in the team events. Osman thus qualified for the Olympic Games London in the 100m and 50m freestyle. Osman participated in the 3rd International Swimming Federation (FINA) World Junior Swimming Championships in Lima, Peru. She was crowned world champion in the 50m butterfly in a world junior championship record time of 26.69. With her gold medal, Osman placed Egypt for the first time in history on the medalists table, ranked 11th worldwide.
Participating countries in the Arab Games were Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Oman, Somalia, the United Arab of Emirates, Bahrain, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, Yemen, Comoros, Jordan, Mauritania, Qatar, Syria, Djibouti, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. Syria announced its team would not participate in protest over the Arab League's suspension of the country's membership. More than 8,000 athletes competed in more than 30 events. For the first time at an Arab Games, swimming was approved by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) as an official qualifier for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Egyptian delegation was 512-strong, and included 369 athletes (246 men and 123 women) plus 143 administrators and physicians. It was the biggest delegation in the history of the Arab Games. Egyptians participated in swimming, archery, athletics, basketball, bodybuilding, bowling, boxing, chess, cycling, equestrian, fencing, goal ball, golf, gymnastics artistic, gymnastics trampoline, handball, judo, karate, sailing, shooting, squash, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, volleyball, beach volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.
Still no ministries
By the end of the year efforts to create a ministry for youth and sports to replace the current National Sports Council for Sports and the National Sports Council for Youth had failed. The reasons remain vague, most likely though after failing to find a suitable individual to lead the ministry which deals with youth and sports, highly important for Egyptians. Several top sports figures turned down the post. The current government did decide to keep the two councils but new figures took over. The National Sports Council is now chaired by a former top official in the same body Emad El-Banani, while the National Sports Council for Youth is chaired by Khaled Abdel-Aziz, board member of the Shooting Club and former board member of the Tennis Federation as well as tournament director of both the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations and 2009 FIFA U20 World Cup, both held in Egypt. Abdel-Aziz is also a general match and group coordinator at both CAF and FIFA.
The president of the Egyptian Tennis Federation (ETF) Israa El-Sanhouri became vice president of the Confederation of the African Tennis (CAT) Zone I (North Africa) up to 2015. Her only challenger was president of the Libyan Arab Tennis Federation Abdul-Salam Aweeti.
Egypt's greatest bodybuilder El-Shahat Mabrouk, the most titled amateur bodybuilder in the world, with a world record that most likely will never be broken -- first place 11 times at the World Amateur Championships -- became technical director of teams in the Egyptian Bodybuilding Federation and a lecturer in the Arab Bodybuilding Federation.