Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Titanic clash

The disputed signing of a player put Egypt’s two most popular football clubs on a collision course. Inas Mazhar reports

Al-Sheikh
Al-Sheikh
Al-Ahram Weekly

Egyptian football was turned on its head when Ahly announced it would boycott all soccer activities following the controversial signing of a player.

Ahly’s decision was issued in an official statement by the club that appeared on its official website. In the statement, Ahly said it would be boycotting all national football activities organised by the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), including the ongoing FA Cup and next season’s national league competition for both the senior and junior teams.

Ahly also threatened to take legal action against the EFA “in order to protect its rights” after the EFA penalised recent Ahly signing Ahmed Al-Sheikh, who according to Ahly, was signed under a correct contract that matches the rules and regulations of the EFA.

The statement accused the EFA of failing to handle the issue properly and that when it decided to suspend and fine the player, the EFA’s misjudgment of the case stirred up a national public debate.

Apparently Al-Maqasa player Al-Sheikh signed for both Ahly and Zamalek, Egypt’s bitter football rivals, at the same time. Zamalek claim Al-Sheikh signed for them first.

It began when the EFA had asked all football clubs to submit to the EFA’s Players Committees copies of their contracts with new players so that they register before the new season. The deadline was before the end of July. Zamalek submitted a copy of their contract with Al-Maqasa’s Al-Sheikh before the deadline.

Surprisingly, Al-Maqasa asked the EFA to include Al-Sheikh on the playing list for their match in the FA Cup, played on 4 August. The EFA agreed and Al-Sheikh played for Al-Maqasa in the game. Ahly management was furious and the following day, sent to the EFA’s electronic system a copy of its contract with Al-Sheikh and Al-Maqasa’s release document of the player. Zamalek asked the EFA to apply the regulations which suspends and fines any player who signs for two clubs at the same time. Therefore, the player received a four-month suspension and was fined LE133,000. Zamalek were happy with the decision.

However, the issue escalated when Ahly broke the news that the player’s suspension came according to old regulations which negated the decision against the player. No one seemingly knew there were new player transfer regulations. Astonishingly, not even EFA football officials knew about the new rule changes, except one, board member Ahmed Megahed who had apparently changed the regulation without notifying his fellow colleagues at the EFA.

Board member Mahmoud Al-Shami revealed to the media that back in January, the EFA board had previously asked Megahed, head of the Players’ Committee then, to amend the regulations of player transfers, and increase the penalty over any player who signs for two clubs at the same time.

Megahed made the amendments which came into effect in July. A ‘free player’ is a player whose contract with his original club has expired and has therefore become free. In case he signs for two clubs, he would not be suspended, only fined. Though it had gone into effect before the issue, the clubs were not notified of these new modifications nor were the other members of the EFA. Al-Shami later replaced Megahed as head of the committee, before the issue came up, and was not aware of the new regulation until Ahly revealed it. No one also knows how Ahly knew while others didn’t.

Media and football officials blamed the EFA and again called for the resignation of its board for being in the dark concerning its internal management, its rules and regulations. Zamalek’s President Mortada Mansour opened fire on both the EFA and Ahly. Zamalek accused the EFA of taking sides with Ahly and accused Ahly of stirring the case up just to win a moral victory over Zamalek since Zamalek had won the league title. Mansour, who had become a hero after Zamalek won the league crown, was heartily supported by his followers.

The media helped stoke the flames with provoking headlines and intensified the fanaticism between the two clubs and their supporters.

And, of course, an issue as big as this definitely attracted both traditional and social media users. Comments on Twitter and Facebook from both sides widened the gap. Fans of both clubs criticised EFA officials and Mansour of Zamalek and President Mahmoud Taher of Ahly. Ahly fans created a hashtag to support their club’s president claiming that Mansour was putting pressure on the EFA. Some lashed out at the player himself for causing the mess.

After negotiations, Zamalek dropped its complaint. But Ahly refused and issued its boycott statement. The EFA threw the ball into the court of the six-man Appeals Committee, which will look into the appeals of Ahly and the player himself. The committee summoned the player to a hearing on Monday at EFA headquarters. Al-Sheikh attended with his lawyer.

The committee was stunned when Zamalek’s Mohsen Hafez, head of the legal committee, made an appearance at the hearing to withdraw Zamalek’s decision to drop the complaint. The club’s legal counselor Mamdouh Ramzi said that it was “very important” to inform the committee that they would like to bring their complaint back into effect. According to Ramzi, to do so before the hearing would preserve the club’s legal rights in the case.

Until the committee takes its decision, the suspension of the player is suspended.

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