Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Who’s he?

In the wake of Ahly naming a new, relatively unknown and not very successful coach, the club’s future and stability are at stake. Marawan Zayed reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The announcement of the selection of the Portuguese coach Jose Paseiro has hugely disappointed Ahly football fans as the majority of the members and fans of Ahly, the country’s biggest football power, show their disapproval of the former Sporting Lisbon manager. Since the announcement, demonstrations in front of the club premises in Gezira have continued with calls from fans and club members alike that the board quit.

Ahly said that Paseiro had agreed to sign a $1 million one-year contract that includes him and three other assistants.

And as always, the issue, within minutes, was on social media forums and became the main talk with several hashtags dedicated to the subject, creating massive debate, controversy and online traffic.

The former coach of Sporting Lisbon, Braga, Al Hilal, Panathanaikos, Saudi Arabia, and Al Wihda, and Real Madrid assistant is expected take over from interim coach Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafi right after the Egyptian Super Cup game against  Zamalek on 15 October.

Despite the nomination of a huge name such as World Cup winner Scolari and other big names, the board decided to go for the relatively unknown Paseiro much to the dismay of the club’s fans who made their feelings known in the last few days since the announcement was made.

Most of the fans think Paseiro will just be another Juan Garrido who was sacked from his job last season after failing to take the team forward despite winning two titles in his short time in Egypt.

Paseiro’s biggest managerial achievement was reaching the final of the Europa League with Sporting Lisbon where they lost 3-1 against CSKA Moscow at home in 2006. Paseiro was thus denied a first trophy in his managerial career that started back in 1992.

His CV is more or less similar to the Spaniard Garrido’s, which is why the fans are protesting against the decision and demanding the whole board resign immediately after a hugely underwhelming season that saw them lose every title to their fiercest rivals Zamalek.

Club fans were expecting to see the board hiring a manager of the highest calibre who had won many major trophies throughout his career. But the appointment of trophy-less Paseiro became more shocking than that of Garrido.

Being the assistant of Carlos Queiroz’s unbelievable Real Madrid side in 2004-2005 would have surely made Paseiro a strong candidate to manage Africa’s biggest club but his trophy-less career, in addition to getting sacked from nearly every club or national side he has managed, surely raises many eyebrows about appointing him.

Nawaf Al-Temiat, one of the most famous players in the history of Saudi Arabia and who was managed by Paseiro during his time at Al Hilal, responded to the critics. “He’s a very good coach, extremely organised and loved to play attractive attacking football to entertain fans. At the same time he knows how to strike the right balance between attack and defence.”

“He was doing a great job with Al Hilal until he left us top of the league after conflict with the owners but for us, the players, he was like a big brother and mentor and not someone with a weak personality as some people claim.” Al-Temiat added that Paseiro is a coach who trusts the professionalism of his players blindly which is why sometimes he’s misunderstood.

“If someone thinks Paseiro’s personality is weak, then he’s got to know that sometimes the problem is the players and not the coach who trusts his players and treats them as true gentlemen. Arab players in particular lack professionalism,” Al- Temiat said.

Fahd Al-Eteibi, one of the most famous Arab commentators, did not agree with Nawaf. “Why did Al Ahly do that? Their move for Paseiro is really baffling and strange to me,” Al-Eteibi said. “Ahly is much, much bigger than Paseiro. The man’s personality is too weak to manage a club like Ahly with its huge fan base.”

Al-Eteibi made it clear that even though Paseiro is a good coach technically, his personality will never help him be a success at big clubs like Ahly which is why he was sacked during his time with Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia even though they were top of the table.

Bilal Allam, another very well-known Arab commentator who worked in Saudi Arabia for a long time, agreed with Al-Eteibi that Paseiro is not good enough to manage a club like Ahly. “Paseiro is not even close to being good enough for Ahly. The talk about his weak personality is true as most of the players who played for him on the Saudi national side used to say so. He doesn’t read games well and there is no way he’ll be a success at Africa’s biggest club,” Allam said.

Saeed Al-Kaabi, the famous Emirati commentator, said the move was not as bad as people say and that Paseiro was a good coach who gained massive experience from his time in Europe and the Gulf which will help him be a success at Ahly if given enough time to work “with a broken team that needs rebuilding”.

The problem now is that the board is facing an impossible task of making peace with angry fans if they really go for Paseiro who is yet to officially sign for the club. The fans are staging huge protests inside the club to make their feelings toward Paseiro known and they are calling on club president Mahmoud Taher and the board members to resign with immediate effect.

The club’s general assembly even sent a letter to Taher and his board titled “ the last chance letter” to inform them they were ready to give them one last chance to save the club from what they see as chaos and decline.

The letter stressed several problems that the board should either fix straight away or that Taher and his board should leave the club if they cannot.

The letter said the general assembly wants to see a “significant reply” from Taher to Zamalek president Mortada Mansour who publicly insulted him several times. The letter said Taher was representing the club and not himself, and that therefore his image was important and he should have reacted.

Second, the letter said sports activities in the club as a whole are in huge decline and need more focus and attention as soon as possible.  The general assembly feels that the club is ignoring the basketball, volleyball and handball teams, with these sports failing to win any silverware in recent years even though their coaching staff is the same.

The letter also criticised club’s failure to deal with those who insult the club publicly like journalist Osama Khalil who is reportedly a big fan of Zamalek. It added the general assembly was completely against the appointment of Hossam and Ibrahim Hassan in any role inside the club after the former Ahly stars insulted the club more than once in recent years. Some reports indicated the club was interested in appointing Hossam and twin Ibrahim as the manager and head coach of the first team respectively).

The letter found that the club’s official TV channel is in huge decline and lacks any valuable content or credible figures that are trusted by the fans. It concluded by saying that the general assembly was giving Taher and his board the chance to fix the problems immediately or leave the club with immediate effect if they can’t fix them.

 In a widely-watched TV program at CBC on Sunday, Taher responded to his critics by saying that the fans did not have the right to demand his resignation and that he will not leave unless he feels “useless, which is not the case”.

He said he had asked “the best manager in the world” Jose Mourinho about Paseiro and that Mourinho encouraged him to appoint him and told him that he’s better than Manuel Jose who is widely considered the best coach in the history of the club.

Furthermore, Taher said that the club never appointed a manager who won trophies before and that most of the foreign managers who managed the club won their first titles with the Egyptian giants which he thought, will be the case with Paseiro.

Moreover, Taher insisted the club will not appoint Manuel Jose again and that Paseiro is better for the future of the club. Paseiro is expected to fly to Abu Dhabi to watch the game from the stands then start his job with the club as soon as they return to Cairo.

Zamalek’s controversial president Mansour said he was very disappointed to see Ahly fans calling for the resignation of Taher and his board and said fans should always stand by their president no matter what. He said that if he were in Paseiro’s shoes he would have turned down the chance to manage Ahly as it was impossible to succeed in a place where he was not wanted even before starting work.

Perhaps one of Ahly’s biggest problems is to bow down to the demands of their fans. Should Ahly acquiesce after having reached a deal with Paseiro, it will encourage the club’s fans to demonstrate after every Ahly decision, big or small. That would not allow the club to function properly and does not bode well for its future.

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