Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1276, (31 December 2015 - 6 January 2016))
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1276, (31 December 2015 - 6 January 2016))

Ahram Weekly

Blue week for the Reds

The annulment of the Ahly board of directors came as a shock to the club’s members and its huge fan base. Inas Mazhar explains what happened

Al-Ahram Weekly

As if Ahly’s recent string of poor football performances in the Egyptian league weren’t enough, the club’s board of directors was dissolved after only two years in office. The sudden decision was taken following a ruling by the Cairo Administrative Court.

The court on Monday did accept Ahly’s appeal and accordingly the annulment ruling is now suspended until the Court of Appeals issues a final ruling.

Two club members had filed a lawsuit to nullify the 2014 elections and freeze its results because of a “procedural failure”. The lawsuit claimed that the elections were called for at a meeting that did not reach the quorum for voting. The court ruled in their favour.

As soon as the news broke, there were split reactions among the club members, fans, public and media. Some were in favour of the decision, claiming that the board’s performance was poor from the start and called for the appointment of the club’s legendary footballer Mahmoud Al-Khatib as president. Al-Khatib, aka Bibo, served as the club’s vice-president in the previous board. But Bibo appeared on his Facebook page to call on club members to unite and politely declined running for the post in order to “save the club”. According to Al-Khatib, Ahly has been a stable club with a solid and strict administration which was the reason for its huge success. “The club didn’t earn the African title ‘Club of the Century’ from nowhere, but because of hard work and huge success which was only accomplished through powerful administrative boards throughout its history.”

The decision was described as being unprecedented in the history of the club. Unlike arch rivals Zamalek and others, it was the first time a court had dissolved Ahly’s board. Two years ago, former sports minister Taher Abu Zeid dissolved the board of Hassan Hamdi, but the then prime minister Hazem Al-Beblawi overruled the decision. The issue never went to court.

While it was announced that the board, led by Chairman Mahmoud Taher, will appeal at the Supreme Administrative Court, other reports claimed that Taher had no intention to appeal. Taher and his board have been coming under harsh criticism for failing to win a major tournament last season for the first time since 2014.

Ahly are currently ninth in the league table with 13 points from seven matches, eight behind leaders Maqassa who have played three games more. “Ahly board stresses its appreciation of the judicial rulings but it renews its respect to the general assembly choices. The procedural mistake wasn’t the responsibility of the current board, since it happened during the reign of the former board, and it didn’t affect the voting process anyway. The club has thus decided to appeal,” said an official statement which appeared on the club’s website, a few hours after the court ruling.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports had released a statement in which it said the ministry respects any judicial rulings and that it would bring it into effect as soon as it receives the official documents of the ruling from the court to take the executive procedures required. It also added that the ministry is keen on taking the right decisions which would ensure the protection of Ahly Club and its stability. The statement concluded by confirming that the ministry was sure that the club’s general assembly and the club’s fans will “stand strong and unite in the face of such a crisis”.

Rumours have it that the Ministry of Youth and Sports will appoint the same board for a transitional period until new elections are held, out of respect for Taher and his board who had outclassed their opponents in the elections and won by the highest majority ever. Meantime and before the board news, Ahly held a press conference on the same day to apologise to the police, the armed forces, and the former defence minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi for “offensive statements” made by its fans.

“We, Ahly, apologise to the armed forces’ men whose role we appreciate,” the club’s football director Abdel-Aziz  Abdel-Shafi said. “Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi has endured a lot and we ask him to add forgiveness to his great deeds,” Abdel- Shafi, better known as Zizo, added in the press conference.

It was Ahly’s first official apology to the army after its fans hoisted posters considered offensive to the army and police in the wake of the 2012 Port Said stadium disaster, which left 72 Ahly fans dead in a soccer riot following a league game with Masri.

The club is apparently trying to curry favour with the army for two reasons. It would like to continue playing in the army-owned Air Defence Stadium in Cairo instead of in other far-flung venues. This week, the army refused to host Ahly’s last two games in the Egyptian Premier League against Haras Al-Hodoud and Wadi Degla. And Ahly is also planning to build a new stadium in Sheikh Zayed, and would like the army to help out.

“We must reconsider the relationship between the club and security forces,” Zizo concluded.

The conference and Zizo’s statements are expected to draw strong criticism and maybe a counterattack from Ahly fan, especially the club’s hardcore group Ultras Ahlawy, known for provoking the police and the army. They believe Tantawi and the army which managed the country for 18 months after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as president in 2011, were responsible for the Port Said deaths.

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