Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1136, 21 - 27 February 2013
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1136, 21 - 27 February 2013

Ahram Weekly

Second fiddle football

Being the current destination of Egyptian players, the championship is getting more attention from the media and fans, Ahmed Hamdi reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

It has always been the English Premier League that was under the spotlight of the media and fans in Egypt. Almost every Egyptian soccer fan has a favourite team between Arsenal and Manchester United or Chelsea and Liverpool or more recently Manchester City. Other teams gained some attention throughout the previous years, especially those with Egyptian players including Ibrahim Said, the first Egyptian to play in the EPL, when he joined Everton FC on loan from Ahli in 2003. Though he did not play a single competitive game with the blue shirt, it was the start of Egyptians knowing more about other not so famous British clubs.
Said returned to Egypt shortly but led the way for other Egyptians to head to British lands. He was followed by Mido who joined Tottenham Hotspur on loan in January 2005 coming from AS Roma of the Italian capital. It wasn’t long until Mido was joined in Tottenham by fellow Egyptian Hossam Ghali who transferred from Feyenoord of The Netherlands to Tottenham in 2006. A year later, another Egyptian player flew to England to join then Premier League side Sheffield United: Ahmed Fathi coming from Ismaili.
During that period Tottenham Hotspur became very popular in Egypt and many young men bought the team’s shirt with Ghali and Mido’s name printed on the back. Fathi though did not spend much time in England before returning to Cairo giants Ahli.
During that time, with all Egyptian eyes focused on the struggles of their players in the Premier League, there was another Egyptian who was then unknown with the name of Adam Al-And who played for Brighton and Hove Albion in the English First Division, or the Football League Championship, one notch below the shining lights of the Premiership.
Ghali was soon to join Al-And after throwing to the ground his team’s shirt in anger after being substituted just 30 minutes after he went in from the bench. That forced Ghali out of the club as fans and manager refused to let him wear the jersey once again. He moved to Championship side Derby County on loan, the first time Egyptians starting looking at the Championship. It was also the first time that the shirt of a First Division team had become very popular in Egypt and sold in sports merchandise stores. Despite so, Ghali returned to Tottenham later but again his being rejected by the team’s fans forced him out of Britain for good.
Mido, on the other side, had moved in between four different Premier League teams from 2005 to 2010. To cut the story short, he did not find success except for his first season at Tottenham. All his other trials with Middlesbrough, Wigan and West Ham United were simply a failure. After scoring 13 goals in his first season with Tottenham, Mido scored in the following four seasons only nine goals in the Premier League. In 2010 Mido left England and went back to The Netherlands’ Ajax where he had his first sparkle. After failing to shine again, he went back to Zamalek to wear the white shirt for only three games in a full season. Being pushed out of the club, Mido found a way back to England once more but this time to the Championship League. Mido joined Barnsley at the beginning of this season. At the same time Ahmed Al-Mohamedi who played for Premier League side Sunderland also moved to the Championship on loan to Hull City, being signed by his former coach at Sunderland, Steve Bruce. Al-And as well became known in Egypt after being called up to the national team.
Having three players in the Championship, Egyptians fans became for the first time interested in it. “Everyone at the beginning of the season was waiting to see Mido’s return, Al-Mohamedi’s good performances, and wanting to know Al-And a bit as a player,” said Hisham Said, a student. The sports media too wasn’t less interested in following up with our players in the Championship. Nearly all sports websites these days will have live coverage of our Egyptian players’ matches in England.
Though Mido failed once again to find his form at Barnsley which forced him to leave in January, the Championship welcomed two other Egyptians who came in from Hull City’s gate. Ahmed Fathi and Mohamed Nagi Gedo moved from Ahli to The Tigers on loan until the end of the season. “That move allowed more attention to be paid to the Championship,” said Ahmed Hanafi, a recent graduate. “Having one player in a team, you could sometimes ignore watching the matches he’s not playing in but when one team has three Egyptian players then my attention is guaranteed,” Hanafi added.
The sports media is moving in a parallel road with fan interest, publishing all the Championship fixtures, line-ups and news. Sports websites upload goals and highlights of the Egyptian players with their teams in the Championship, minutes after the end of every match. The matches are also aired live on Al Jazeera Sports channels and many fans are now watching what they never watched before.
“Shirts of Gedo, Al-Mohamedi and Fathi will be worn by children and young men soon enough,” said Alaa Mohsen, a sports merchandise seller. “Several came to me and asked for Gedo’s shirt this week after he scored his first goal with Hull City,” he added. Teens ask for Al-Mohamedi’s shirt, too, according to Mohsen. “At first I didn’t really think they would leave Barcelona or Real Madrid, for example, to buy a Hull City shirt but since they are asking for it I will soon get it for them,” Mohsen told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Though on the surface it looks like Egyptians failed to maintain their spot in the Premier League and were demoted to the Championship level of football, their performances there is a must see. The trio at Hull City has been headlining news of the Championship, especially Al-Mohamedi who has turned into the star of his club, and Gedo who has scored twice in one week. Fathi is also a fan demand to see him on the pitch. Hull City is currently in second position in the table which, if maintained, will take them automatically through to the Premier League next season. On the other side in Brighton, Al-Abd is as well fighting with his team for a promotion position. “The Championship in England has some good football after all and that’s what I discovered lately,” said Hanafi.

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