Sunday,19 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)
Sunday,19 August, 2018
Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Two knocks on the head

Zamalek overcome off-field issues to stay on top while Ahly stay on course. Marwan Zayed reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Egyptian league is on fire more than ever and it seems as if it may reach the last week of the season before we know who will be the eventual winner this year.

In most of the previous seasons we used to see Ahly clinching the title very early on in the season but this season the holders face stiff competition from huge rivals Zamalek as well as Enppi, Wadi Degla and Ismaili.

The action packed season is also witnessing interesting stories off the pitch and Zamalek is one way or the other the focal point of these stories. This week saw two of the most valuable members of Zamalek squad depart the club in surprising circumstances.

First, their top scorer and best player Mo’men Zakaria, who joined the club 18 months ago on loan from Enppi, shocked Egyptian fans in general and Zamalek supporters in particular when he signed for Zamalek’s biggest rivals Ahly, as soon as his loan deal with Zamalek expired.

The mid-fielder, Zamalek’s top goal getter with seven goals and eight assists, was widely expected to stay with Zamalek on a permanent basis but Enppi demanded LE5 million for the player plus the remaining LE3.75 million from Islam Awad’s transfer to Zamalek three seasons ago. While Zamalek confirmed they were ready to pay Zakaria’s fee they insisted on not paying the remaining fee from Awad’s deal for any given reason.

Enppi insisted that unless Zamalek pay the full fees for both players they won’t sell Zakaria to Zamalek and will instead sell him to any other club in Egypt, which was the case. The player himself was more than ready to stay with Zamalek but demanded the rest of the money the club owed him from the loan deal, which didn’t happen according to Enppi.

Ahly jumped in the middle of all this and paid the full LE5 million in advance to make it easier for Enppi to sell them the player who also agreed to join the Red Devils. From that point everything went smoothly and the player signed the following day his loan deal just as the Zamalek contract expired.

The news was considered a huge blow to the White Knights but they should blame no one but themselves.

The following day, Zamalek suffered blow No 2. After Zakaria left for Ahly, Zamalek head coach Pacheco, without warning, departed the club. The news shocked the club but it was expected by many people as the Portuguese has had many issues with the president of the club Mortada Mansour in recent weeks. Pacheco confirmed later that he left the club because of the “ignorance of its president who wants to be involved in every single detail in the way he manages his team which is totally unacceptable”.

Added Pacheco: “I have never seen a president of a club go to the dressing room after every game the players lose and insult the players and the manager.

What’s even more shocking is that the club is sitting at the top of the table.” Mansour criticised Pacheco more than once in the media, much to the dismay of the coach who said it was impossible for Zamalek to win trophies as long as the president acts in such a way with the players and the manager.

Reports claim that Zamalek is close to signing their former Brazilian coach Vierra to take over for the club for the second time in two years.

Leaving behind the stories happening off the field and moving to the green pitch, this week witnessed wins for both Ahly and the manager-less Zamalek as they defeated Al-Gouna and Petrojet respectively while Enppi drew 1-1 against Maqasa. Zamalek now sit three points clear at the top with 37 points from 16 games while Enppi are second with 34 points from 16 games. Wadi Degla are third with 29 points from 15 games and Ahly fourth with 27 points from 13 games.

If the Red Devils manage to win their three postponed games they’ll be one point behind Zamalek. Credit to Zamalek players, they managed to overcome their recent off-field problems and came from behind 2-1 to defeat a very strong Petrojet side that have 24 points and sit sixth in the table.

Ahly didn’t have to work hard to defeat a mediocre Gouna side away from home to keep pace with Zamalek and Enppi at the top.

The postponed games for Ahly, delayed because of African championship commitments, will be vital for them to ensure they don’t lose more ground behind their rivals.

The writer is a freelance journalist

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