Despite ban, Treika's in
Though he's grounded by his club, the superstar is picked for the national team. At a press conference, manager Bob Bradley explained the selection and other decisions, Ahmed Hamdi reports
At a press conference at the headquarters of the Egyptian Football Association Egyptian national team coach Bob Bradley spoke about his latest selections for the next two friendlies against the Congo and Tunisia. The squad comprised five from Zamalek, nine foreign-based players, and eight from other Egyptian clubs. All these are to be joined by six players from Ahli including banned superstar Mohamed Abu Treika.
Abu Treika, shortened to Treika by his millions of adoring fans, was slapped by Ahli's management with a two-month ban and a reported LE500,000 fine for refusing to play the Super Cup match against Enppi. Abu Treika had been supporting Ahli Ultras fans who believe no local matches of any kind should be played following the deadly game between Ahli and Masri in Port Said in the league on 1 February which killed 74 fans, most of whom were Ahli supporters, in a football riot.
The Ultras and players like Abu Treika believe retribution for the families of the victims of Egypt's worst ever football fight has not been met and the trials of those involved in the tragedy are going too slow.
Abu Treika's selection created controversy after the American coach overlooked Zamalek's on loan player, Mahmoud Shikabala, when he, troo, was banned by his club a few months ago. Shikabala was punished after his infamous incident with Zamalek's former coach Hassan Shehata when a public bust-up ensued after Shikabala was substituted in a domestic league match.
Later on, Shikabala was loaned to the Emirati club Al Wasl but made it back to the squad in the current selection.
"Abu Treika's situation is different from that of Shikabala," Bradley told the press just a few hours past noon last week Wednesday. "I don't have to overlook a player just for being banned by his club," he added. Bradley continued, "When I overlooked Shikabala it was because he lost his focus after the incident with his coach and he wouldn't have been able to give his best on the pitch."
On the other hand, the former US national team coach thought that Abu Treika's apology for not playing in the Super Cup should be accepted. "His leadership and character are important to the team," he said.
Bradley then mentioned former national team player, Mohamed Zidan, telling the press that he never said the player is excluded from his selections for good. "What I said is that Zidan is not guaranteed a place in the squad and that he has to be evaluated continuously." However, he went on to warn journalists that he would not answer any more controversial questions like "'Why did you select this player and overlooked that one? "'
The current squad will head to the United Arab Emirates on 9 October. The team will hold a training camp in Dubai which will include two friendlies against Congo and Tunisia. The camp comes as the team prepares for its next World Cup qualifying match against Zimbabwe next year. "The Dubai camp will be the first step towards serious preparation for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers," Bradley told the press.
The preparation comes at a time when Egyptian football is inactive following the Port Said tragedy. Bradley told the journalists about his hopes that football activity would return soon to help them in preparation for their "biggest challenge". Qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil 2014 is indeed Bradley's biggest and only challenge left after being knocked out from the African Nations Cup qualifiers. Egypt will be absent for the second time in a row from the biggest African tournament when it is held next January in South Africa, this after winning the tournament a record three years in a row starting in 2006. "We are now focusing on qualifying to the World Cup which we know is everyone's dream," Bradley said.
The American coach revealed the truth about the rumours of him fleeing to his country when the US embassy was raided last month. Bradley said he was on a vacation and returned on the date he was supposed to return. He expressed his commitment to stay in Egypt until he leads the national team to the World Cup "with the help of Egyptian fans."
Bradley was also asked by the journalists in attendance about what he thought of the anti-Islam film which caused dozens of Egyptians to storm the US embassy. The national team coach expressed his rejection of such actions. "It's a shame on those who produced the film and it is a plain invitation to spread hatred."