Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

To the rescue

Marawan Zayed asks whether Ahly still have a shot at the league title under new coach Fathi Mabrouk

Al-Ahram Weekly

Do Ahly have a chance of winning the domestic league football crown this season? This was the question asked by most Ahly fans as soon as the appointment of Fathi Mabrouk was confirmed by the club after the sacking of Spanish tactician Juan Carlos Garrido. Two trophies in his first season, during his first few months, were not enough for Garrido, who previously coached Villarreal, to keep his place as Ahly head coach after a disastrous run of form that saw the club bow out of the African Champions League in round 16 and see any hopes of retaining the Egyptian league title fade in recent weeks.

As soon as Garrido was sacked the club turned to former manager Hossam Al-Badri for help. Al-Badri is currently the manager of Egypt’s national under-23 team but negotiations with the Egyptian federation and the man himself were inconclusive and in the end Al-Badri decided to continue his journey with the national team.

The second option was to turn to a well-respected figure inside the club in the form of Fathi Mabrouk who managed the team four previous times, always as a stopgap coach until a permanent replacement was found, usually a foreigner. Mabrouk, a standout defender for Ahly and Egypt in the 1970’s, was given the job for a fifth time until the end of the season. Mabrouk was and remains a club legend as a player then as a coach who won the Egyptian league with the club when he temporarily took over for a short time in a situation similar to the current one. So he was the obvious choice after the club decided to finally part ways with Garrido.

But the question is whether Mabrouk has enough time to save the season and compete for the league title, or is too late? The club and Mabrouk himself say that the title is still very much within the club’s reach if they can win all their remaining games. With 12 long games to go for Ahly and 13 for league leaders Zamalek, it makes sense that Mabrouk believes that his team can catch up even though the difference between them is eight points, and a game in hand for Zamalek (up until 10 May).

“The club has always had the never-die attitude and the players will fight till mathematically it’s over,” was Mabrouk’s first comment when he was asked about the title race. Mabrouk’s first game was very promising as Ahly defeated Al-Nasr 3-0 after playing brilliantly especially in the first half.

The goals were scored by Mahmoud Trezeguet who scored the first and the second goals while Mo’men Zakaria added a third. The players seemed more relaxed and played with a zeal and verve missing under Garrido while star striker Emad Meteb, who was at odds with the Spaniard, had a very positive 30 minutes when he replaced Abdullah Al-Said. Overall, the performance was very good and Mabrouk said he was delighted with how the players performed throughout the 90 minutes and saluted Trezeguet who was undoubtedly the man of the match.

On Sunday, Ahly crushed Tala’a Al-Geish 4-0 for Mabrouk’s second consecutive convincing win and 52 points.

There was no let up by Zamalek, however, as they recorded a 2-0 win over Al-Raja which makes it five in a row without conceding a goal. The in-form Bassim Morsi and Mustafa Fathi were the goal scorers and there is no doubt that if Zamalek can maintain this level of performance until the end of the season they will surely wrap up the league title weeks before it ends, for their first league title since 2004. The players seem focussed and determined to end the long wait as both their defence and attack are doing a great job.

Second placed Enppi seem even more determined to keep pace with Zamalek at the top as they ran riot against the Arab Contractors to win 4-0 in probably their best performance of the season. Enppi lost only one league game in the last eight months which just shows why they’re above a club like Ahly in the standings. Again there is no doubt that if they can maintain the way they are playing – currently four points behind Zamalek -- the pressure will be on Zamalek to the very end.

The next few games will be as thrilling and decisive as it gets as Zamalek will do their best to prove that this is their year and that there is no way any team can take the title from them, while both Enppi and Ahly will heap the pressure on them by trying to win all their upcoming games, hoping Zamalek will crack under the pressure. Ahly’s president Mahmoud Taher insisted that if Mabrouk manages to get things right at the club he might be appointed as permanent manager at the end of the season which gives Mabrouk another motive to take the league from high flying Zamalek.

White collar players

IN A STAR-STUDDED event, Egypt’s famed Ahly football club unveiled the team’s new jerseys and outfits. The event witnessed a huge turnout with the attendance of the team’s current and former players as well as current and former board members. Also present was Saudi Arabia’s Abdel-Aziz Al-Qahtani, manager of the Saudi sports company Sporta, the rights holder and supplier of Ahly’s sports outfits. A video presented the partnership between Ahly and Sporta, which also deals with famous Saudi Arabian teams Al-Hilal, Al-Shabab and Al-Nasr. The sports firm is expected to open its newest branch in Egypt in 2016. The company has also produced a new song for Ahly. The new Ahly jersey went on display on a huge screen where the team posed for a picture. The players wore the shirt, which has a white collar and a badge stitched on the jersey, short and sock with the initials ASC (Ahly Sporting Club), for the first time against Tala’a Al-Geish on Sunday in a league encounter. The kit apparently brought the team good luck after a crushing 4-0 win. Ahly officials said that the new jersey and shorts feature a slimmer fit that is more tailored to the body. Ahly will wear blue and black if their opponents in away games are wearing red. Ahly’s traditional colours are red shirt and socks and white shorts

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