Sunday,17 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)
Sunday,17 February, 2019
Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The Capitano retires

EGYPT’S Hossam Ghali, one of the best and most complete midfielders of his generation, retired from football this week despite being in perfect shape even at age 36 , reports Marawan Zayed.

The Capitano, as they call him in his club Ahly, had a very difficult 2017 at both the international and club level which problem hastened his departure.

It started over a year and half ago when Ghali clashed with national team assistant coach Osama Nabih during a training camp. Nabih claimed Ghali talked to him in an arrogant manner and tried to overstep his authority, taking the rest of the players with him, while Ghali said Nabih was being biased to Zamalek’s players given that he used to play for the White Knights, and bad-mouthed Momen Zakaria and Ramadan Sobhi of Ahly after both players starred in the derby a few days earlier.

The story kept going for days then weeks and months. No one from the Egyptian federation or outside succeeded in fixing the problem between Ghali and Nabih. Egypt coach Hector Cuper said he would never call Ghali to the national team unless he apologised to Nabih while Ghali made it clear he would never apologise because he didn’t do anything wrong in his opinion. That was the end of Ghali with the national team even though he was needed in the African Cup of Nations let alone the upcoming World Cup. Without doubt, Ghali is the most creative and classy midfielder his generation witnessed and his leadership qualities were to have been essential for the national side in the World Cup but the Capitano stood by his decision to never apologise even though he knew this meant he would be denied a dream World Cup place in the team.

As for the club, Ghali didn’t have the best of relationships with Ahly’s coach Hossam Al-Badri and didn’t feel appreciated at the beginning of last season so he chose to leave his boyhood club and join Saudi Club Al-Nasr on loan for one season where he gave a mixed performance. In some games Ghali was labelled a genius by the Saudi media while in others they called him a burden on the team, a player who was past his prime. But he still had a good season overall before deciding to return home after the loan period ended.

He returned to Ahly for the remainder of the season but it was clear that Ghali didn’t really feel at home. Instead of being persuaded to apologise to Cuper and Nabih to have any chance of being picked for the World Cup, Ghali shocked the Egyptian football industry by announcing he was retiring. It was shocking news as Ghali looked excellent in the games he played since he came back which is why many pundits and fans wanted to see him at the World Cup. However, the Capitano insisted on retiring and made it clear that nothing will make him change his mind, much to the dismay of Egyptian fans in general and Ahly fans in particular.

Ghali’s testimonial game was played on 11 May in Dubai in Hazzaa bin Zayed Stadium against Dutch giants Ajax. The game ended in a 1-0 win for the Egyptian side thanks to Salah Mohsen’s brilliant strike in the 83rd minute to ensure Ghali’s last game in a red shirt ended on a high. Egyptian football will surely miss one of its finest players in the last 15 years. Best of luck, Capitano.

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