Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Deadlocks and doldrums

Right now, Egyptian football is straining,
Ahmed Hamdi reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Bad losses for Ahli and Zamalek shake the ground under their feet in the African Champions League. The Ahli Red Devils fell by three goals at home against South African side Orlando Pirates in a match that could least be described as disappointing. Zamalek, on the other side, had its own share of disappointing results as the team fell 1-0 to AC Leopards in Congo. The two Egyptian giants have thus collected only a single point each after two rounds of the group stage. The third round – there are six games all together -- could be decisive for both of them and could prove to be their last chance to turn their fate around and get back into the competition for the two qualifying positions.
The two local rivals drew 1-1 in the first round.
In the third round of the group stage, Ahli will walk in the footsteps of their bitter Egyptian rivals as they head to Congo to face AC Leopards. The fans though hope for a different result. Zamalek will also take a flight across the African continent heading to Orlando Pirates in South Africa. The Zamalek White Castle, despite their need for a win, at least lost away; Ahli’s mashing came at home. As a result, Ahli’s coach Mohamed Youssef may have his position in jeopardy in case of another loss.
Rumours have been spreading about a possible return for Ahli’s legendary coach Manuel Jose. The Portuguese who won more than two dozen tournaments with Ahli was head of the coaching staff three separate times before. He is considered the savior when Ahli is in trouble and is falling into a series of poor results.
Jose’s possible return is not the only problem Youssef has to face. Ahli might have to play their match missing their superstar Mohamed Abu Treka. The famous attacking midfielder suffered an ankle injury during training and his participation in the match will be up to the medical staff after he goes through tests and X-rays. Ahli will also be missing stars like strikers Gedo and Emad Meteb who are yet to return from injury plus Mohamed Barakat who recently announced his retirement from the national team.
Zamalek also will have some problems to overcome in their journey to South Africa. The club will be missing star defender Mahmoud Fathallah who is suspended. Although Fathallah might be replaceable, another suspension was received by Ahmed Gaafar, Zamalek’s one and only striker on their African roster.
 The five-time African Champions League winner tried to buy a striker and add him to their roster before the end of the registration period but the attempt failed. While Zamalek announced that they sealed a deal with Al-Gouna by which Al-Gouna striker Arafa Al-Sayed transfers to Zamalek, the deal broke down at the last minute. That left Zamalek with only one striker until the end of the African tournament. Could their coach Helmi Toulan find a solution to the problem against Orlando? Fans hope so.    
Still in Africa, our national team is preparing for the last match in the World Cup qualifiers. After it was announced that the team will face Mali in a friendly match the opponent was changed to Uganda. At the same time, Egypt went one position up the FIFA monthly ranking to 61 in the world. The so-called advancement will have little effect. Egypt is ranked 11 among African teams, meaning it will lose its chance of becoming part of the first category in the World Cup qualifiers draw. Egypt has just one more game, against Guinea on 10 September in the group stage in which it will end on top no matter the score. After that, It will play just one more team, yet to be decided, home and away.  Egypt could cross paths with any of the big African teams so will have to prove worthy of one of the five African World Cup tickets.
Back to Uganda’s game, Bob Bradley has excluded players of Ahli and Zamalek from the match’s roster. He had given them the chance to focus on their teams’ quest in the African Champions League. The players who are considered the backbone of the national team now must first lift their teams out of their doldrums, and then lead their national team to the biggest stage of them all, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the land of football.

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