Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1157, (18 - 24 July 2013)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1157, (18 - 24 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Mr Minister

Egyptian sport has a new head and El-Gouna is ready to host Ahli and Zamalek’s African fixtures. Inas Mazhar reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Former Ahli international football striker Taher Abu Zeid was named Egypt’s new state minister of sports. Until his appointment, the future of the Sports Ministry was a mystery. There was  talk that both the ministries of youth and sports would be merged into one while some speculated that it would return back to the old shape: two separate national councils for youth and sports, at least during the transitional period that followed the ouster of Mohamed Morsi as president two weeks ago.
On Monday, Abu Zeid was named the new minister of sports, succeeding another Ahli club mate Al-Amri Farouk. Abu Zeid, winner of the silver shoe at the U20 World Cup in Australia in 1981 and one of Egypt’s best strikers in the eighties and nineties, will take office as of this week. His best achievement was leading the Pharaohs to the 1986 Africa Cup of Nations held in Egypt. He was also a member of the national team at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Abu Zeid, a TV football presenter and analyst, was busy campaigning for the post of president of Ahli club in elections scheduled for next month before the International Olympic Committee decided that the new regulations proved there was government interference. The new regulations bans members who have been in office for two terms (eight years) from running in elections again, a decision found by the IOC to go against democracy since it came against the wishes of the General Assembly of clubs to select whoever they wished and for as many terms as they wanted. The IOC threatened to impose sanctions on Egyptian sports if international regulations were violated and elections were held.
The International Olympic Committee has sent a letter to the Egyptian NOC calling for cancelling the club’s elections according to the new regulations put forward by Farouk.
The 51-year-old sports minister Abu Zeid told reporters that he was aware of the current controversial issues facing Egyptian sport and it would be his top priority including the future of the league which was cancelled in the wake of Morsi’s departure, sports regulations and the Olympic committee.
Meanwhile, Ahli and Zamalek are scheduled to host their first-leg African Champions League group stage fixture at El-Gouna. The two teams will meet in El-Gouna Stadium at the Red Sea resort on 21 July. The first-leg match was scheduled to be held at Borg Al-Arab Stadium but security forces refused to host the game for security reasons because of the unrest that came with the ousting of Morsi. Zamalek, the host of the game, was in a dilemma as CAF, the African football federation, had threatened to impose a fine on the team if the game was cancelled or postponed. The African body also required security and safety guarantees which Zamalek had failed to provide since the Ministry of Interior refused to be held responsible for the match. Zamalek even thought of holding the game outside Egypt. The UAE and Morocco were options but that would have ruined the Egyptian reputation and image as Egypt would appear an unsafe place that had failed to secure a football match, in addition to the costs that the club would have incurred. Finally, Zamalek reached an agreement with the governor of the Red Sea to host the game at the 12,000 seat El-Gouna Stadium.
Ahli club’s website confirmed that they had received a letter from CAF confirming that the match would be held next Sunday at 4.30 local time at El-Gouna Stadium. Because the stadium is not equipped with floodlights, the match has to be played during the day. The timing has raised concerns from the players who have to play in the heat while fasting in Ramadan. The match is to be held behind closed doors.
The Ultras fans of Ahli and the White Knights of Zamalek have announced they will attend the game, which goes against the rules. But it is unclear whether they are ready to travel 450 kms to watch the match now that is has been moved to the Red Sea.
Zamalek is now being trained under the supervision of Helmi Tolan who replaced the Brazilian Viera. And after the team superstar Ahmed Hassan announced his departure from the club, he decided to stay on because Tolan said he needed Hassan during this period. The last time Zamalek won the league title was in 2002.
Ahli, on the other hand, is having a hard time with its players as the club starts a new campaign to defend its African title with head coach Mohamed Youssef replacing Hossam Al-Badri. A dispute is casting a shadow on the relationship between management and the players who have refused to renew their contracts after cuts that reached 15 to 20 per cent. The club said it was facing financial problems, but the players rejected the explanation.

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