Thursday,16 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Thursday,16 August, 2018
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

So, too, soccer

As the political scene remains chaotic, Egyptian football is no different. Ahmed Hamdi reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Since the 25 January Revolution Egyptian football has not had a settled atmosphere, much like the whole country. Two consecutive national leagues were canceled. The first was scrapped after the Port Said massacre last year in which 72 fans were killed. The second was cancelled just one week before its end after the huge demonstrations of 30 June which brought down Mohamed Morsi as president.
There is a new sports minister, former Ahli star Taher Abu Zeid, but it is too early to expect any major announcements from his office.
The latest league was played with 18 teams split into two groups with the top two in each league going to the semi-finals. The new season will be played with 22 teams split into two groups as well, according to the latest news coming from the Egyptian Football Federation. The same 18 teams from last season will be joined by Misri, which was banned from last season due to security reasons following the Port Said tragedy, plus Minia, Al-Ragaa and Qanah, the three teams promoted from the second division. Despite this piece of news, it remains uncertain when will the new season start, though, looking at the current political situation on the ground, it does not look like this will happen anytime soon.
Meanwhile, Ahli and Zamalek are the only two teams playing official matches these days as they participate in the African Champions League. Their first match in the group stage was against each other a week ago. The match was played at Al-Gouna stadium in Hurghada for security reasons – it’s far from the capital -- and before Iftar for technical reasons – the stadium has no floodlights. Though the match witnessed the return of spectators to the football grounds – matches behind closed doors were played for security reasons as well -- the performance on the pitch was poor between the two teams. It could have been fasting plus the heat that led to that. The match ended 1-1.
 Wa’el Gomaa, Ahli’s captain, referred to his team’s shoddy play after he made it clear they do not want to play their next match in the tournament while fasting. “Playing while fasting is very tough and we were affected by it in our match against Zamalek. That’s why we shouldn’t play our match against Orlando Pirates while fasting,” the veteran defender told his club’s official website. Ahli has asked the CAF to move their match against the South African side Pirates from 4 to 9 August to avoid playing during fasting. Ramadan is scheduled to end on 8 August.
Zamalek, on the other hand, flies to Congo for their second round match against AC Leopards. “The temperature in Congo is nearly 26 degrees, much less than in Al-Gouna,” the manager director of Zamalek, Hamada Anwar, told his club’s official website. “We are getting ready for the match and playing it on natural grass will make it much easier than playing it on an artificial turf,” Anwar added.
Getting ready for Zamalek means having friendly matches. One match was against Kahraba in which Zamalek came out victorious 5-2. The match witnessed two goals from the returning Shikabala. Also, the new signing Ali Farid made his debut scoring his first goal with the white shirt. Friendlies have become the only way possible to keep the players in form and to evaluate new signings as well.
Speaking of new signings, the transfer period this year witnessed several deals despite the uncertainty around the return of football. Ahli has gone shopping in Ismailia, buying the contracts of young goalkeeper Mossad Awad and midfielder Ahmed Khairi. Sabri Rahil joined Ahli from their bitter rival Zamalek, although Rahil is said to be on loan for the time being. Ismaili signed a youngster from Ahli, Ahmed Al-Esh, who joined the yellow castle in his quest to find a starting position.
Zamalek, on the other side, signed two new players in Ali Farid from Egyptian Telecom and Hamada Tolba from Maqasa. Ahli, Ismaili and Zamalek lost many players in the transfer window. Ahli parted with midfield genius Hossam Ghali who left to Lierse in Belgium. Ismaili star Omar Gamal left Egypt for Libya’s Ahli. Zamalek lost two important players from last year’s squad: international midfielder Ibrahim Salah headed to Saudi Arabia’s Orobah and Abdullah Cisse joined Ittihad of Libya.
Will the new signings for the Egyptian teams get their opportunity to show off soon? Between their hopes and the current political situation, the answer remains a mystery.

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