Sunday,18 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1374, (21 December 2017 - 3 January 2018)
Sunday,18 November, 2018
Issue 1374, (21 December 2017 - 3 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Well done

The year was the best for Egyptian sports since 2011, reports Inas Mazhar

 

It was a remarkable turnaround for sports in Egypt. Egyptians saw their flag raised and the anthem played in world events throughout 2017. Until a few years ago, that was not the case. The nationwide uprisings of 2011 and 2013, which ousted two sitting presidents, caused much mayhem and chaos which affected most things in the country, including sports. But 2017 saw a sports revival as the country started to pick itself up again.

Achievements in football were the most notable. It started at the beginning of the year with a second-place finish at the Africa Cup of Nations held in Gabon. The Pharaohs who had missed Africa’s premier football event three consecutive times, stunned the continent and silenced their critics when they made it to the final match of the tournament.


The Pharaohs

In October, the Pharaohs fulfilled the nation’s long-awaited dream of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia following a 28-year absence. Egypt secured its ticket a month before the end of the hard-fought qualifying campaign after beating Congo with a last-minute penalty.

Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah and goalkeeper Essam Al-Hadari were the two biggest Egyptian football names who forged a global reputation.


Al-Hadari

The 25-year-old Salah took the world by storm at the beginning of the year and has kept doing so since, being the central figure of his British team, leading Egypt to the final match of the Africa Nations Cup and then taking the Pharaohs to the World Cup. The pacey forward had a hand in all seven of the goals that took the Pharaohs to their first World Cup since 1990 – assisting two and scoring five, including the stoppage-time penalty against Congo that qualified them for Russia. “I want to be the best Egyptian ever so I work hard,” Salah said.

The Liverpool star, who is this season’s English Premier League top scorer with 13 goals after 17 games as of writing, has enjoyed a stellar year for both club and country which earned him the BBC World Service African Player of the Year award.


Osman

Fans voted online at BBC.com/AfricanFootball in record numbers this year for their favourites on the five-man shortlist. Salah beat out Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Guinean Naby Keita, Sadio Mané of Senegal and Nigeria’s Victor Moses. “I am very happy to win this award. It’s always a special feeling when you win something. You feel like you did a great year, so I’m very happy. I would also like to win it next year,” Salah said after receiving his award. He became the third Egyptian to win the award and the first since 2008.

Salah now adds his name to a list of African legends, including Abedi Pele, George Weah, Jay-Jay Okocha and Didier Drogba, to have won the BBC African Footballer of the Year prize. The Egyptian follows compatriots Mohamed Barakat (2005) and the legendary Mohamed Abu Treika (2008) in receiving the trophy.

“It’s well deserved,” said Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp, who handed the trophy to the player at the club’s Melwood training academy. “I am a really lucky person. I had the opportunity to work with a few outstanding players and I am happy that it is now with Mo. The good thing is that he is still young, there is a lot of space for improvement, a lot of potential still that we can work on, but that’s how it should be. It’s a big pleasure, to be honest, to work with him.”


Abdel-Rahman Al-Nashar

After joining Liverpool from Roma in June in a lucrative $40 million deal, the start to Salah’s Anfield career could scarcely have gone better as he was named the club’s player of the month in August and September. A goal on his debut helped him rack up seven goals in his first 11 Premier League games, and he has fared even better in the Champions League, with five goals in six group games.

As for Al-Hadari, he himself would never have imagined 2017 would be a year to remember in his history. The 44-year-old goalkeeper was registered as the third goalie for Egypt at the Nations Cup behind Sherif Ekrami and Ahmed Al-Shennawi. An injury during training for the opening match against Mali saw Ekrami sidelined. Almost 34 minutes into the match Al-Shennawi too became injured and Al-Hadari found himself defending Egypt’s net, the oldest goalkeeper in the history of the Nations Cup and naturally the highlight of the event. He stood between the posts for the rest of the tournament, taking Egypt to the final before losing 2-1 to Cameroon.


Ihab

Since then, the former Ahly goalie became Egypt’s No 1 netminder. He will break another record if he plays in Russia: the oldest player in World Cup history.

“I am glad it is happening. That was my dream to make it to the World Cup. I haven’t thought about retirement yet. As long as I am fit I will continue playing,” Al-Hadari said.

Apart from football, this year witnessed unprecedented historic triumphs for Egyptian sports. After making history last year at the Rio Olympic Games, weightlifters Mohamed Ihab and Sara Samir made headlines as they claimed four gold medals for the first time in the history of Egyptian weightlifting at the World Championships, three for Ihab in the 77kg weight category and one for Samir in the 69kg. Shaimaa Khalaf also won a silver and bronze in the over-the-weight category. A month before these achievements, good news came from the IOC, which has awarded Egypt’s retired female weightlifter Abeer Abdel-Rahman two olympic medals; a bronze from Beijing 2008 and a silver from London 2012 after Russia athletes proved positive for steroids.


Samir

Swimmer Farida Osman stole the show of the year when she stormed the pool at the World Swimming Championships in Budapest in August to win a bronze medal in the 100 metres butterfly, the first African swimming medal at the World Championships. Osman’s outstanding victory earned the 22-year-old two major trophies: Best African Female Athlete by the association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) and Best Outstanding Achievement award by the Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashed Sports Awards.

Squash maintained its world dominance which started the past decade and which continued this year with its players smashing records and claiming all individual and team championships. Mohamed Al-Shorbagi and Karim Abdel-Gawad exchanged the top leading world rankings of the PSA while Nour Al-Sherbini and Raneem Al-Welili secured the top two slots of the women’s world ranking WTA. The Egyptian men culminated their victories by beating defending champions England for the world title earlier this month. Ali Farag and Nour Al-Tayeb became the first married couple in history to win the USA men’s and women’s titles. Egyptian duo Mohamed Al-Shorbagi and Raneem Al-Welili are the 2017 AJ Bell PSA World Champions after an enthralling day of final action at Manchester Central Convention Complex saw both players enter the history books by lifting the sport’s most prestigious title for the first time.


The couple Farag and Al-Tayeb

Karate and taekwondo continued their invasion of the martial arts mats at the world’s Grand Prix events with success in both senior and junior levels. Judo was victorious due to champion Ramadan Darwish who won the U-100kg gold medal at the 2017 Tashkent Grand Prix after defeating Niyaz Ilyasov of Russia in the final and winning the gold medal at the European Open in Switzerland.

Gymnastics made a remarkable appearance at the Challenge World Cup in Varna. Ali Zahran won the bronze medal in the rings while woman artistic gymnast Farah Hussein claimed the silver medal in the uneven parallel bars and the bronze medal in the floor exercises.

Team sports including handball, volleyball and basketball outclassed their African opponents at continental championships and did impressively well in their world-wide participation, improving the world rankings of each along the way. Basketball and volleyball put Egypt on the international map by hosting world championships for the first time in Africa.


Al-Welili and Al-Shorbagi

Modern pentathlon not only saw results at the junior World Cups held all over the world, but also went further, winning one gold medal and a silver at the World Senior Championships for the first time ever, and at an event which was held for the first time on African soil, in Egypt. It was also a good year for the Egyptian pentathletes at military championships.

Though Egypt never sees snow except on TV, Special Olympics athletes made history as they claimed gold, silver and bronze medals at the Special Olympics Winter Games held in Austria in March. To train for ice skating, Egyptians used sand as an alternative to prepare for the event and it paid off with remarkable results.

Egypt’s para powerlifting team won five gold medals and two bronze in the 2017 Mexico City World Championships while the swimmers took a silver and two bronze.


Al-Sherbini

On the sidelines, World Para Powerlifting announced that Sherif Osman had been elected the sport’s first athlete liaison following an election. Egypt’s three-time Paralympic and world champion received 82 votes, finishing ahead of Nigeria’s Rio 2016 gold medallist Lucy Ejike (26), and Great Britain’s 2014 world champion Ali Jawad (24).

Osman will serve a four-year term (2018-2021) on the Sport Technical Committee, acting as liaison between the athletes and the World Para Powerlifting Management Team, representing the views, interests and rights of the athletes and making their voices heard. The 35-year-old, still in action, collected Egypt’s first gold medal and his third world title in Mexico after lifting 205kg in the men’s up to 59kg, more than three times his body weight, a personal best and an African record.


Darwish

Egypt dominated the World Police Games held in Abu Dhabi as they came atop the table with 19 medals from three out of four sports in the bi-annual World Police Games. Male and female athletes collected 13 gold medals and four silver in swimming and two gold medals in judo.


The karate team

Another highlight of Egyptian sports was the passing of a new sports law which came into effect in June after being approved by parliament, then ratified by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. According to the new law, which replaced a 1977 bill, all Egyptian sports federations and clubs will draw up their own regulations, each on its own, to be approved by their general assemblies. Board of director elections will then be held.

According to Youth and Sports Minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz, the new boards of sports federations will serve until the end of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

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