Saturday,24 February, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)
Saturday,24 February, 2018
Issue 1254, (9 - 22 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

An Egyptian in La Liga

Just as several Egyptian players left their mark in many European countries, will Amr Tarek do the same when he becomes the second ever Egyptian to play in the heady heights of Spain? Ahmed Hamdi finds out

Al-Ahram Weekly

Italy, Turkey, Portugal, England, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland are some of the European countries that several Egyptian players tried to conquer with their football talents, however, none arguably match the kind of skill on display in Spain, the country of the two giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

p until last season the Spanish La Liga remained an Egyptian-free tournament, unlike the Premier League, Serie A, Swiss league, and the Portuguese league. But things are about to change in the upcoming new season.

Since Ahmed ‘Mido’ Hossam joined Celta Vigo on loan in 2003, during which he played just eight games and scored four goals, no Egyptian has ever played in the Spanish league. This is the league that depends mostly on personal skills more than tactics, like the Italian, or physical fitness like the English.

It hasn’t captured the interest of the Egyptian players, and more to the pont, vice versa. Maybe Egyptians have not impressed Spanish teams – at least not until Amr Tarek decided to change all that this year.

 Tarek is an Egyptian-American defender, not really famous in Egypt. Born in Los Angeles on 17 May 1992, Tarek started playing football with Asmant Assiut in 2000 and remained with them for nine years before leaving at the age of 17 to Enppi’s youth team. Just a year after, the Egyptian-American left to Germany in his first experience abroad, joining FC Magdeburg in which he played one season, scoring six goals in 22 matches.

The next step for Tarek, or as he is known abroad Amr Aziz, was the second team of SC Freiburg. He joined in 2011 and played only 15 matches in the one season he spent with the club before leaving again to former Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg. With The Greens he played 19 matches and scored a single goal, and again left after one season. After an unsuccessful trial at Bayern Munich, he headed back home to join El-Gouna in 2013.

With El-Gouna, Tarek played 33 matches in two seasons. During Tarek’s run with his new Egyptian team, he underwent another unsuccessful trial period at FC Luzern of Switzerland. There were rumours that Cairo giants Ahly were interested in signing him, bu that never transpired.

The defender had spoken of the interest shown by Spanish side Real Betis, the team that had just returned to La Liga after a successful year in the Spanish Segunda. Days after it was announced that El-Gouna had reached an agreement with Real Betis on the terms of a transfer, Tarek packed his bag and headed to Spain to join his team’s pre-season camp.

Tarek is the second player to ever play in Spain after Mido and the first to wear the green and white striped shirt of Real Betis. He will be the only Egyptian in La Liga next year if Chelsea player Mohamed Salah, and Hull City’s right back, Ahmed Al-Mohamadi, do not decide to join. Other than this pair, it doesn’t seem that any other Egyptian player is even close to setting foot in Spain.

There was speculation that Salah might join former La Liga champions Atletico Madrid but nothing is certain about the future of the Egyptian star except for the fact that he will not return to Fiorentina next season since it seems he is much closer to joining Italy’s Inter Milan.

Tarek never represented either the Egyptian or US national teams although he is eligible for either. He has only one international cap in his resume, with the U-20 Egyptian team in 2011, and has expressed his interest in representing the first team of Egypt if he gets called up. “Of course I won’t play for the American national team. I’ll choose Egypt,” he said after being asked about which country he would prefer to play for.

A good performance is exactly what Egyptian fans will be looking for when Tarek becomes the only Egyptian to play in La Liga next season. Will the defender open the door for more Egyptians to head to Spain? The answer is coming soon.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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