23 - 29 December 1999
Issue No. 461
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Zamalek's 2-1 win against Ahli had repercussions for the loser which extended well beyond the confines of the league table. In the midst of licking its wounds after suffering its first defeat of the season, Ahli's superstar twins, Hossam and Ibrahim Hassan, dropped another bombshell on the squad, announcing -- in unison, of course -- that they were quitting for the remainder of the season. The twins placed the blame for their problem firmly on the shoulders of Ahli's German coach Reiner Tsobil, accusing him of treating them like children, not like veterans nor with the veneration they say they deserve. Both subsequently stopped training and launched a scathing attack on Tsobil in the media, describing him as the worst coach in the club's history. They said they were retiring from the international team and announced they would never again put on the famed red jersey as long as Tsobil remained in charge. They even threatened to commit the ultimate sin -- join eternal rival Zamalek.
The definitive loss to Zamalek, a match that saw Hossam score an only goal, was the culmination of a row that had been brewing steadily between Tsobil and in particular Ibrahim, who made no secret of his disappointment after being benched by the German at the start of the season in an African cup game.
The twins' stand made the headlines for several days, with most commentators describing the 33-year-old pair as being plain spoilt and moralising that no one was indispensable. Critics wrote that the shenanigans would never be accepted by Ahli for fear of setting a precedent, one that would induce other players with gripes against Ahli and other clubs to mutiny in protest.
Following a heart-to-heart talk with Hassan Hamdy, deputy president of the club's board, the twins agreed to return. But to what extent is still unclear. On Sunday, possibly after learning from the press that their days with Ahli were numbered, they trained with the club but did their training separately on the pitch, far away from teammates and the watchful eyes of Tsobil.
The Hassan brothers, the most famous twin act in the history of Egyptian football, are legendary for their fiery tempers which have landed both in hot water ever since their careers began in 1985 and have given them a duly deserved prima donna reputation. Defender Ibrahim was suspended for a year in 1997 following an obscene hand gesture seen live by millions on television in a game against Morocco. Brother Hossam, a striker of repute, was suspended by Ahli for six months in 1985 after he stripped off the club's jersey, threw it on the ground and stomped and spat on it to protest against being substituted.
Manager Thabit El-Batal refused to say what sort of punishment, if any, awaited the brothers. The question at hand, however, is whether the last has been heard of the twins Hassan.
In a week of controversy, the new French national team coach Gerard Gili and the media duelled after he had banned journalists from covering the team's training sessions. The Sports Journalists Association issued a statement declaring it would boycott the national team and its news and condemned Gili's decision. In a show of defiance last week, the press proved it was dead serious, walking out of a press conference Gili had just begun and demanded an official apology from him and the Egyptian Football Federation (EFF). Gili apologised and stressed his respect for the Egyptian press and what he said was its vital role in supporting the national team. Several sources were quoted as saying that it was in fact El-Dahshury Harb, EFF chairman, who was to blame for the press ban. At any rate, Gili will officially reconcile with the media at a press conference on 28 December.