Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

The ‘Bulldozer’ runs out of steam

Wigan’s short term legend Amr Zaki announces his retirement from football, reports Marawan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

Ex-Wigan Athletic, Hull City and Egypt star Amr Zaki announced his retirement from football after a troublesome couple of years that saw him battle various injuries.

Zaki will surely look back at his career with some regrets especially his time at Wigan Athletic. The Bulldozer, as they call him in Egypt and England, started his career in his city of birth Mansoura in 2001 at the age of 18 and it escalated quickly. Twenty goals in 20 league games for Mansoura saw oil club Enppi sign him from under the noses of Ahly and Zamalek thanks to their financial power. Zaki stayed at Enppi for two years where he was top scorer of the league in his second season as well as leading the petroleum team to their first ever trophy when they won the Egyptian Cup.

Zaki was without doubt the star man of the team at that time and his magnificent performances earned him a call up to the national team where he again impressed which led to a place in the squad of the African Cup of Nations in 2006 here in Egypt. Zaki impressed in the tournament and scored the vital winning goal in the semi-final against Senegal which earned the national team a place in the final. He also scored in the penalty shootout in the final against Ivory Coast which gave Egypt the crown.

Zaki’s performances drew interest from many teams in and out of Egypt -- Ahly, Zamalek, Nantes and Lokomotiv Moscow. Zaki decided to join the Russian giants as he wanted to test himself in Europe. Unfortunately, the move did not go according to plan. Zaki did not play a single game for the club as he found it impossible to settle in the country and its freezing weather.

He returned to Egypt to join Zamalek in 2006 and managed to impress right away, reminding everyone of what he can do. Two years of scoring for fun for the White Knights saw clubs from all over the world fight for his signature. Zaki had at least three offers from Europe but decided to join Wigan Athletic after their manager Steve Bruce convinced him he’ll make him one of the stars of the English Premier League. Bruce, once a star defender for Manchester United, flew to Egypt to watch Zaki play before signing him.

Zaki started his journey in England brightly and managed to score twice in as many games in the pre-season. However, that was nothing compared to what was coming. A splendid volley in the opening game of the season against West Ham saw Zaki score on his official debut for the club despite losing 2-1.

Zaki went on to score another 10 goals in the league including a brace at Anfield against Liverpool, with his second of that night chosen as one of the best three goals of the season. The brilliant overhead strike was described by Liverpool’s goalkeeper Pepe Reina as one of the best he ever conceded in his career.

Zaki was scoring week in, week out for Wigan Athletic and even provided six assists in the league as well as scoring in the league cup. He won best player in the month twice and was chosen on the team of the season in the first half of the campaign.

However, a typical Egyptian mindset saw Zaki return late from international duty three times in a row much to the dismay of Bruce who said he was losing patience with his striker who also saw his performance hugely dip during that time. Bruce started to leave Zaki out of his starting team hoping to get a reaction from his goal machine but things got worse and worse for Zaki who just could not replicate his first half performances in the second half of the season which made Hull City and Bruce decide against extending his loan deal of taking the option of buying him.

 Bruce labelled Zaki as “the most unprofessional player I ever coached” before the Egyptian star returned to Zamalek after the expiry of his loan deal with Wigan. The following year was more of the same for Zaki who struggled for performances and goals with Zamalek but his agent somehow managed to get him a five-month loan deal to Hull City.

There weren’t many optimistic people when Zaki joined Hull as it was already obvious that the player lacked both discipline and sharpness during that time. Rightly so, the move did not prove to be fruitful to any of the two parties as Zaki failed to find the back of the net in six outings.

Zaki returned to Zamalek once again in 2010 this time showing glimpses of the real Amr Zaki, scoring some vital goals for the club until he suffered a long-term injury. Underwhelming moves to Turkish club Elazigspor, Kuwaiti club El Salmeya, Moroccan side Raja Casablanca and Lebanese outfit El Ahd witnessed the decline of Zaki more than ever thanks to various injury problems and lack of motivation to get back on track.

A move back home to Arab Contractors should have seen Zaki provide the Egyptian club and former Egypt coach Hassan Shehata with goals up front but he could not recover from his injury problems and terminated his contact with the club weeks after signing it, saying his respect for Shehata made him take the step as he knew he was not fit enough to add value to the team.

After failing to get back in shape Zaki announced his retirement from the game. His mercurial side aside, he will surely be remembered for many good reasons, especially for his time at Wigan and for his heroics with the national team.

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