Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Soccer under the sun

The national football league resumed after being suspended for 53 days. Inas Mazhar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Five matches were played on the first day of the domestic competition which went back to work on Monday. All games were held behind closed doors and all in the afternoon, according to security directives.

The first day went smoothly and was incident free. Matches were broadcast live on state TV and Nile Sport after some sports programmes were cancelled because of the league suspension. Ironically, TV presenters Ahmed Shobeir and Medhat Shalabi, who had strongly urged the return of the league, could not celebrate after their two sports shows were scrapped.

The competition was suspended on 8 February after 22 football fans died from a stampede and ensuing suffocation at the Air Defence Stadium during a league match between Zamalek and Enppi in week 22. That game marked the beginning of the second round of the tournament, and in fact the return of football fans to the stands. The league’s first round was held behind closed doors, the norm following the 2012 Port Said disaster in which 72 fans were killed in a soccer riot.

Also according to security constructions, most of this week’s matches were held as of 2pm, in the heat of day. Security officials refused to allow matches to be held in the evening even though spring and summer in Egypt is expected to be quite hot for the players. Ibrahim Hassan, Ittihad team manager, said officials had to give the timing of the matches a second thought. “In the coming weeks, it is going to get hotter and it will be very hard for the players to play in the sun and heat,” Hassan said in a radio interview after Ittihad played to a scoreless draw with Enppi.

With the victory, Enppi, the club affiliated to a petroleum company, kept its tedious hold on second place with 43 points while Ittihad reached 29 points.

The Arab Contractors beat Masri of Port Said 1-0 at Ismailia Stadium. The Contractors is doing a good job under the supervision of head coach Hassan Shehata, the former manager of the Egyptian national team. Karim Mustafa scored his team’s only goal in the 48th minute. With the three points, the Arab Contractors jumped to 33 points, while Masri remains at 28 points.

Ittihad Al-Shorta beat visitors Wadi Degla 1-0 in the last minute by way of Amr Kamal. Al-Shorta is now 30 points while Wadi Degla remains at 32 points.

In Alexandria, Semouha scored an impressive victory over Al-Geish 2-0. Ibrahim Abdel-Khalek opened the scoring for the home team in the 63rd minute and Herman Kawawo netted the insurance three minutes from time. Semouha raised its tally to 28 points while Al-Geish remained at 31.

Dakhlia and Zamalek was the most important match of the day. The game was played at 4.30pm in Suez, the only stadium that agreed to host the match as a home stadium for Zamalek after Air Defence Stadium refused to host Zamalek matches. Security also refused to allow Zamalek to play at Petro Sport in New Cairo.

Regardless, Zamalek won the match 2-0. Hamada Tolba scored first at 60 minutess while Ahmed Eid Abdel-Malek sealed the victory from a penalty kick in the 72nd minute. Zamalek continues to lead the league with 48 points while Dakhlia stayed at 24 points.

As much as football fans were happy with the return of the domestic competition, they were not happy with the performance of the players. The games lacked excitement and most appeared to be lackluster displays. The players lacked fitness and the spirit. More than 50 days of stoppage had obviously taken its toll.

Before the resumption of the league, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) called on all clubs to be “fully committed and show discipline” to the new conditions and system of the competition. The EFA is also considering changing the times of afternoon matches. Board member Mahmoud Al-Shami said that the EFA will discuss the timings with security officials based on the requests of the clubs which have complained from the heat and player exhaustion.

Al-Shami, who is also the EFA spokesman, explained that the EFA would study the suggestions of the clubs at a meeting which will be held on Friday at Zamalek Club with the attendance of the prime minister and the minister of youth and sports.

According to EFA Executive Director Sarwat Swelem, the EFA is keen to continue this season’s domestic competition. Swelem said the Ministry of Interior had agreed to secure the stadiums from the outside while the EFA and the clubs will be responsible for the organisation of the matches.

The EFA also announced the schedule of matches for the five weeks until week 27. According to Al-Shami, after five weeks the league will be interrupted from 8 to 13 April for the Olympic team return match against Burundi. The Pharaohs are also scheduled to go for a training camp during the same period and play a friendly match on 12 April upon the request of the new national team head coach, Hector Cuper.

On Tuesday the remaining matches of week 22 were scheduled to be played at the same times. Before Al-Ahram Weekly went to press, Petrojet was to face Ismaili at the Suez Stadium, Haras Al-Hedoud was going up against Al-Nasr at Borg Al-Arab, and Al-Gouna was set to play Al-Assiouti at Al-Gouna Stadium. It was Masr Al-Makassa versus Damanhour at Fayoum Stadium and the marquee match between defending champions Ahly and Al-Ragaa at Petro Sport Stadium at 4.30pm. The rest were scheduled to start at 2pm.

The league has 15 weeks to go.

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