Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

One last shot

From the very top of Egyptian football to rock bottom, the careers of four former international players have fallen apart as they struggle to find a team for one final hurrah. Ahmed Hamdi tells their stories

Al-Ahram Weekly

A few years ago, these names were on top of their game. Egyptian clubs were willing to pay a lot for them to wear their shirts. But time has passed and no club is now willing to risk their money on them. These players were once the cornerstone of the Egyptian national football team, but have now disappeared completely from the picture.

The name Ibrahim Said is one that can never be forgotten by Egyptian football fans, although the 35-year-old has not played a single match in nearly five years. Said was one of the most talented players to ever set foot on the Egyptian green grass but his problems far exceeded his talent. The two-time Africa Cup of Nations winner has been as talented in creating tension and problems with every single club he represented as he was in creating chances on the field.

After a major dramatic split between Said and the team he started his ascension at, Ahly, Said went on to join rivals Zamalek after major problems between the young star then and the Ahly management led by its president Saleh Selim.

The player, who started to shine once again wearing the white shirt, was called up to represent the national team in the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations that Egypt hosted. The defender played a crucial part in winning the cup.

Said left Zamalek later that year to chase a professional career in Turkey, joining Caykur Rizespor and then Ankaragücü, but his quest did not last more than two years before returning home again to join Ismaili in 2008.

Nothing changed for the 29-year-old back then, as he brought a mix of talent and controversy to the coastal team. The defender soon took off the yellow shirt, terminated his contract, and headed to Libya to join Ahli Tripoli in 2009.

The Libyan experience did not go well and Said soon terminated his contract again and moved far west to Canada, where he went on a trial with Toronto FC, but again no agreement was reached between the controversial player and the Canadian team. He moved back to Egypt joining Ittihad of Alexandria, a story that did not last more than a season after clashing with his coach Carlos Cabral.

In his later years, Said announced his signing with several clubs in and outside of Egypt, but never played a competitive match. However, he has been tweeting all the time, vowing not to bow to the controversy that surrounds him either on or off the pitch. Said is now 35 and is a free agent.

Just like Said, Mohamed Zidan has been one of the most famous international Egyptian players in the past few years. No one can forget his contribution to the national team in two Africa Cup of Nations titles, in 2008 and 2010. Zidan also had a successful career in Europe after playing for some of the biggest teams in Germany and earlier in Denmark.

The striker was in Borussia Dortmund, with which he won the Bundesliga, becoming the first Egyptian to receive that honour, before leaving Europe after 13 years to join Banyas in the UAE, naturally chasing petro dollars.

The relationship between Zidan and Banyas fell apart after just nine matches with the team, as the club accused him of faking injuries, and decided to punish him by omitting him from the squad for nearly two seasons, in which he had a valid contract but did not play a single match. As a result of being put on the shelf, Zidan started appearing on TV analysing matches on UAE and Qatari channels. He also has a café and PlayStation lounge in Egypt. Zidan’s contract expired at the end of last season and he is now a free agent.

Another striker who has been one of the most talented players in Egypt is Gamal Hamza, the former Zamalek player. Hamza has been struggling since he left Zamalek in 2009 to find a team in which he can play regularly. Hamza joined seven teams since then and played a total of 32 matches in five years, 16 of them with Al-Gouna in 2010, while he played six times last year with Haras Al-Hodoud before terminating his contract with the team.

Hamza is now 33 and faces major family problems, as well as problems to get back to the green pitch. The player is now a free agent but with no bright future because it seems that no club is interested in signing him. The career of the player who has won more than 10 trophies with Zamalek is going through a very dark tunnel.

On the hand, former international player, Amr Zaki, seems to have a glimmer of light at the end of his career, revealing that the Arab Contractors are interested in signing him after nearly five years of being out of service, excluding the few matches he had during these years that sum up to not more than 23 games.

Zaki has made it a habit to sign with a team, take few photos with the team’s shirt and then terminate the contract hours later. On paper, he joined teams like Raja Casablanca and Al Ahed, although he never played a single match for them. The hero of the 2006 match against Senegal and two times an Africa Cup of Nations winner, he is now a free agent hoping to revive his career by joining his godfather coach Hassan Shehata under the Arab Contractors roof.

The writer is a freelance journalist

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