Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The match not played

Egypt’s 2-0 win over Zambia in a friendly match could not overshadow a game that never materialised. Inas Mazhar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

In a warm-up for the 2018 World Cup qualifications next month, Egypt blanked Zambia 3-0 on Sunday in a match played in the United Arab Emirates.

Ahmed Hassan Kouka of Braga scored a brace three minutes into each half. The 22-year-old Portuguese-based Kouka, who deserved man of the match, was assisted in the first by Bassem Morsi and in the second by Omar Gaber.

Amr Gamal then made it three deep into stoppage time to give Egypt the 3-0 win.

Egypt, which last made it to the World Cup finals 25 years ago, faces the winner of the match between Sierra Leone and Chad. The winner will them move on to the qualifying group stage.

The Egypt Zambia friendly was held at the Mohamed Bin Zayed Stadium in Dubai, in front of a low spectator turnout, as opposed to the Super Cup pitting Ahly and Zamalek scheduled to take place today (15 October) and which was sold out almost a week before the much anticipated clash between Egypt’s two giant clubs.

Part of the low spectator turnout in the Zambia game was due to the poor management from the organisers in publicising the game. The venue was announced 24 hours before the match and reports claim only 15,000 attended the game in Abu Dhabi.

Despite being a lacklustre match, the Pharaohs gained from their one-week training camp in the UAE. According to former footballer Alaa Madkour, Egypt now have built a new strong team. “I believe [Egypt manager Hector] Cuper succeeded in bringing out a unique team. They are the perfect combination now playing together in harmony. It was clear the players followed their coach’s instructions as each knew his task. The starting line-up was the way it should be and so were the changes made.”

Former national team player Badr Ragab believes this “disciplined and young team” stands a chance of reviving Egyptian football and bringing back its days of glory. “I think it’s time Egypt regains its dominance. This team comprises the best players around and their ages range from 20 to 30 which is the peak of football players,” Ragab said.

Still, the result could not overshadow a match that was not played. Egypt was supposed to first play Senegal in its first friendly encounter on 8 October. However, the match was suddenly cancelled. The decision was taken by the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) after it discovered that Senegal sent its under-23 team, not its seniors. The first team was to face Algeria in a friendly on 13 October.

“We took the decision in order to protect the reputation of Egyptian football,” EFA chairman Gamal Allam told local media.  Senegalese media reported that Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was focussing on the friendly against Algeria, saying it will be “very important for his team”.

“Algeria are the best team in the continent and it will be a good chance for my team to test their progress,” Cisse said.

The EFA denied being informed either by their opponents or their agent. They understood they were playing the A team. There are rumours that EFA officials tried to push the Argentine Cuper to play the game but he insisted on not facing a younger team. The 59-year-old’s decision was highly appreciated in Egypt, unlike that of the EFA, if the rumours are true.

The Senegalese side, however, threatened to take action. In an official statement reported on Friday in the Senegalese website Wiwsport, the Senegal Football Federation (SFF) said it had respected all the terms of the agreement and that it will file a complaint to the African federation CAF and FIFA over the sudden cancellation of their friendly game against Egypt in Dubai.

“The Senegal Football Federation condemns the unacceptable behaviour of their Egyptian counterpart, which caused material and moral damages,” the SFF statement read.

“We reserve the right to pursue all legal actions indicated in such circumstances, with the competent judicial authorities at CAF and FIFA,” the statement added.

“The SFF was informed of the cancellation a few hours before the game when both sides were already in the United Arab Emirates.”

“The SFF wants to stress that they respected all the terms of the agreement signed with the authorised agent by the Egyptian Football Association,” the statement added.

But the Egyptians argue that the game was set to be played between the A teams of both countries and they were surprised to see the U-23 Olympic team making an appearance instead.

The SFF also confirmed that due to “the unavailability of the Senegal A team to play this game for obvious reasons of non-compliance with FIFA provisions, it has explicitly agreed that SFF will field its A team to the game on 8 October in Dubai.”

According to a FIFA circular letter No 1355: “There shall also be at least three days between two matches of any national team... It should be noted that if a national team’s two matches are not played on the territory of the same confederation, the maximum flight time for the national team between the venues of the two matches shall be five hours over a maximum of two time zones.”

Senegal have a scheduled game against Algeria on 13 October in Algiers. The flight between Dubai and Algiers takes more than six hours.

Senegal’s U-23 team are preparing for the Olympic qualifiers in which they will play South Africa, Tunisia, and Zambia in Group A while the young Pharaohs have been placed in Group B with Nigeria, Algeria, and Mali.

With allegations being fired against one other, the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sports has opened an investigation into the cancellation of the game, insisting that the issue should not be ignored and warned of “real action” towards those responsible for the scandal.

“Sports Minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz expressed his displeasure over the matter and has ordered an investigation to determine who was responsible for this crisis,” Ashraf Sobhi, assistant to the sports minster, told Ahram Sports.

“The matter is not acceptable and those responsible will be punished,” Sobhi said.

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