Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1371, (30 November - 6 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

One more to go

Today’s Ahly elections cap a grueling week of voting in Egypt’s premier sports clubs, reports Inas Mazhar

 

It has been an exhausting week for Ahly, Egypt’s most famous club, as election campaigning for its president has intensified down the stretch, whether within the club’s premises among its members or outside its walls among the club’s supporters and media.

Since the beginning of the week, after other club elections concluded on Saturday, all attention has now shifted to Ahly. Past Ahly club elections have usually come off relatively smoothly and cordially with few recriminations, but this one has been unusually fierce, especially between the two camps headed by the current club president Mahmoud Taher and the former vice president Mahmoud Al-Khatib, aka Bibo. The two campaigns have been busy promoting themselves and their respective list of candidates. There have been symposiums, meetings, conflicts and of course rumours, or what could be better described as incidences of hitting below the belt.

With the other club elections over, the media have been chasing the Ahly candidates, especially the presidents of the two camps and their prospective associates. Taher and Al-Khatib have been making the rounds by appearing on exclusive interviews with top TV anchors including Ahmed Shobeir and Amr Adib. The interviews have created a frenzy on social media outlets after having gone viral. Speaking openly to TV audiences, club members and fans have only raised the stakes higher.


Taher

It wasn’t just the media who have been chasing the candidates; the aides of both campaigns have been close to harassing those who will vote. They have been after them everywhere, on social media, at the club and by phone, offering them plenty of perks like picking them up from their homes by car on a round-trip to the club in order to vote. Election day is Thursday 30 November, a national day off because of Prophet Mohamed’s birthday, and candidates are concerned that voters would rather stay home than go and vote.

Ahly was hit by a strange incident as part of the battle. On Monday morning, former handball star Gohar Nabil, who is running with Al-Khatib, suddenly announced on his Facebook account that he was pulling out of the race following some sort of misunderstanding with the team. The news came as a shock and also took social media to another height of frenzy. Nabil then announced that he was holding a press conference at a hotel to explain his withdrawal to the media. For hours, Nabil could not be reached. When contacted, the hotel confirmed the booking of the press conference room for the candidate. Journalists rushed to the hotel and waited while speculation and rumours spread throughout traditional and social media, claiming that Nabil had betrayed his team and had received a huge sum of money to pull out of the race to mar Al-Khatib’s electoral campaign.


Al-Khatib

Back at the hotel and with only minutes to go for the beginning of the conference, the hotel informed the anxious media that the press conference was cancelled by Nabil himself. At the same time, the candidate posted on his Facebook account a claim that his page was hacked and that it was not true that he was pulling out and that he would join his team in their symposium at the club’s premises in Nasr City after an hour. He indeed went to the symposium and was pictured there. Surprisingly, and until Al-Ahram Weekly went to press, there has been no comment from Nabil’s team on the entire incident. Nobody seems to be able to confirm the truth, but one thing is almost certain: Nabil has lost any credibility he once had.

So far, nobody can predict who will lead Ahly for the next four years. It is very close. Only club members are entitled to vote for the new president and are thus anxious to know what is coming in the next four years and to see what promises of more benefits and services at the club will be met. But while the club members, the only benefactors of these elections, wait, there are others who are just as eager to know the results, foremost of whom are the club’s fans, who are in the millions and dwarf the club’s number members who are in the tens of thousands. They may be seen as the outsiders but they have a stake. They may not care about the services or benefits but they are deeply concerned about the club’s football’s future. These fanatic fans, including the Ultras, have gone to extreme lengths, including violence, to ensure the club’s football team remains a winner.

Earlier this week, other Egyptian sports clubs held their elections. Zamalek, Heliopolis, Gezira, Shooting, Shams and Maadi, among others, went through a much smoother electoral process and an unprecedented turnout by voters. At the end of the day, there were of course winners and losers, although the results were anticipated. Those whom the media predicted to win actually won. Interestingly, most of the winners were new faces, running for the president’s post for the first time and snatching seats from a current or former president.

In Heliopolis Club, former board member Amr Al-Sonbati and his team dominated the race, beating veteran club president Mohamed Touni with a wide margin. Also at Shams Club, previous board member Ossama Abou Zeid beat the club’s current president Mohamed Shatla for the president’s seat and the board. Just one day before the elections, Abu Zeid had won a seventh court case against him since he announced he was running. And former board member of Gezira Club Amr Gazarine and has also beaten the former club president Ahmed Al-Said. The court’s annulment of the Shooting Club’s president Amr Al-Said from the race less than two days from the elections enabled his arch-rival Mohsen Tantawi to win. The results revealed how the clubs and their general assemblies believe in the necessity of change and their willingness to accept new faces, challenges, visions and ambitions.

It was only Zamalek Club which renewed confidence in their current president Mortada Mansour who dominated the race with his entire team, except for two, including his son Ahmed, who was running for the vice president’s seat. Mansour faced competition from the club’s former goalkeeper Ahmed Suleiman, who despite announcing his withdrawal to the media three days before the elections, went ahead anyway on election day.

Though happy of course with remaining president, Mansour became furious that his son lost the race against one of Suleiman’s men, Hani Al-Attal, a former board member and whom Mansour had tried to sideline from the race. A court overruled Mansour’s actions and brought Al-Attal back. Another member from Suleiman’s list was Abdallah George who collected a board seat.

Mansour won with all his list intact save two but he announced he would not accept the results. The controversial lawyer once again shocked the sports field in Egypt by refusing to accept as winners Al-Attal and George, whom he considers outsiders.

Mansour proved that actions speak louder than words. Zamalek was playing a league game against Misr Al-Makasa on Monday. Since domestic games are being held behind closed doors, clubs are supposed to send a list of their officials and board members who will attend games to both the EFA and security. However, Zamalek’s list was not only sent without the names of the new members, but the vice president’s name Al-Attal was replaced by Mortada’s losing son.

Zamalek lost the game 3-1.

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