Al-Ahram Weekly Online   18 - 24 October 2012
Issue No. 1119
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

The trap

A number of international camps for the Egyptian national football team and clubs have turned out to be a mess. Abeer Anwar investigates

Click to view caption
Egypt in the UAE; Ahli players in happier days

The general post-revolution political scene, generally one of chaos, and the absence of strong security measures have been reflected in Egyptian football including the stoppage of the league tournament and other abnormalities, forcing players to train abroad. A number of teams including the national team are preparing for the new season -- if there is to be one -- by entering a number of training camps outside Egypt.

This week the national team beat Congo 3-0 in their training camp in the UAE as part of their preparations for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.The Pharaohs could have played Brazil or Cameroon but ended up with the Congo and Tunisia.

The blame for the guessing game went to the sponsors who organised the training camp.

Egypt has not qualified for the World Cup since 1990 and is currently out of the Africa Nations Cup for the second consecutive time after winning three successive ACN trophies (2006, 2008 and 2010).

"(Former US coach) Bob Bradley is really relieved the training camp was salvaged," goalkeeper coach Zaki Abdel-Fattah told Reuters.

Egypt is not slated to play any competitive games until next year, when they will host Zimbabwe in their third Group G game in March. Egypt is currently topping the group with six points in two games after beating Mozambique and Guinea.

Should Egypt top the group it will play in one more as yet undetermined group from which it must come first if it is to go to Brazil in 2014.

At the club level, Ahli travelled to Dubai a couple of weeks ago for a training camp organised by a marketing and advertising company which offered the team $400,000 on paper. Though a relatively small amount, Ahli accepted the money, apparently in view of the shaky situation the club is currently in in the wake of several pitch invasions by their Ultras fans.

The Ahli Ultras want retribution which they believe is not forthcoming following February's league disaster in which 74 fans, mostly Ahli supporters, were killed in a game involving Ahli.

Ahli are also preparing for next week's second leg semi-final match against Nigeria's Sunshine in the African Champions League. The first leg in Nigeria ended 3-3. Ahli, a six-time winner of the tournament, have not held the title since 2008.

But in Dubai, there was no match schedule nor were the teams Ahli were to play against decided. In addition, the team was prevented from entering the hotel they were supposedly booked for because no booking was made.

Hassan Hamdi, Ahli's chairman, was forced to send money to the team to book a place for the players to stay in. Ahli has taken the organising company to court.

The Olympic team coached by Hani Ramzi was also a victim of apparent fraud when it travelled to Costa Rica for a training camp. It was the same scenario if not worse after the team discovered that no one in Costa Rica knew about their arrival to the extent that they had to drive from the airport to a police station to help them find a place to stay in.

The marketing company that organised the camp promised to hold three friendlies against Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica but when Ramzi arrived, he discovered that two matches were cancelled.

Zamalek and Ismaili also had logistical and financial problems. Both teams travelled to Kuwait last week to play friendlies in the Gulf state after receiving a part of their money with the sponsor company but got nothing else. Sabri Sereag, head of Zamalek's delegation, found no one to play against. Qadessia of Kuwait excused itself after their head coach left days before Zamalek's arrival.

It ended up that Zamalek and Ismaili played against each other in a match that was postponed 24 hours due to mismanagement.

"It's the first time Ahli faces such a trap," Adli El-Qaie, head of the club's marketing committee and an experienced official, said. "We are not to be compared with other teams who are only after money. We prepared well for the training camp but Manuel Jose (former Ahli coach) at the time made us quickly agree on the offer as he felt that the players will be greatly affected if they stay in Cairo more than this. All our papers are documented and we filed a complaint and we will receive the rest of our money by law."

Ibrahim Youssef, Zamalek's ex-star and one of its board members suggested that the clubs and teams should resort to the old system in organising training camps abroad. "We have good relations with club presidents and officials in all Arab countries and beyond. We should stop dealing with sponsors who are only after money and their personal benefit while our players and teams are the losers. Zamalek will file a complaint in court against the sponsor of the Kuwaiti training camp and we will not let our money go."

Abu Regela, ex-Zamalek player and a head coach, shared Youssef's opinion. "Egyptian clubs should organise their own training camps especially since each club has a board member for external relations and a PR official."

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