Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Swan song nears

From a sparkling extra young talent to an overweight has been, Mido’s career looks like it’s coming to an end. Ahmed Hamdi reviews the highs and lows of the once biggest name in Egyptian soccer

Al-Ahram Weekly

Back in 2001, when Ahmed Hossam was a promising 17-year-old player, almost everyone in Egypt believed that he would make it to the top. The years after have not disappointed those who thought big of the teenager as he went on to play for giant Europen teams Ajax, Roma, Marseille, and Tottenham. But as high as he went as a player in his early career, as low as Hossam, better known as Mido, fell even before reaching the age of 30.
Today, the former Egypt international is nowhere near his known form. He has been suffering from weight control problems since for at least three years. As his form deteriorated, Mido began leaving big clubs for smaller ones. And his first comeback to Cairo’s Zamalek — his first squad — in 2009 was not successful; neither was the second in 2011. Today, Mido is “very injured” as his coach at Barnsley, Keith Hill told the British Daily Mail. Though at 29 he is still too young to hang up his boots, the question remains as Mido disappears gradually from the football scene: is it the end of the line?
Since his start with Zamalek in 1999, Mido was seen as the future of Egyptian football. He left to Europe at the age of 17, a move that is rarely made by Egyptian footballers, defending the shirt of the Belgian side Gent in the year 2000. Despite feeling some homesickness at the beginning, Mido later went on to become one of the best players at the club and an absolute fan favourite. He scored in his first and only season with Gent 11 goals in 21 matches. Mido’s performance with Gent earned him two individual prizes. He fiwon the Belgian Ebony Shoe, which is given to the best African player in the Belgian league. He was then named Belgian League Young Player of the Year.
Mido’s amazing season at Gent granted him a move to a bigger club — the famed Dutch squad Ajax Amsterdam. The club, crowned four times European champions in what is now known as the Champions League, signed Mido to form an attacking duo with the young Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Despite having problems with his manager Ronald Koeman, Mido impressed everyone during his stay at Ajax, scoring 21 goals in 40 matches. He was named during that period African Young Player of the Year 2001-02. It was the same year he led Ajax to the Eredivisie and KNVB cups.
In spite of his good performance, Mido’s problems with Koeman came back to haunt him. The young man was relegated to the reserve team for disciplinary reasons. At that time, it was said that Mido captured the attention of Italian teams like Juventus and Lazio, however, the Egyptian went on loan to Spanish side Celta Vigo in early 2003. Despite an impressive debut scoring in his first match with his new Spanish club, Mido played only seven more matches until the end of the season. Having scored four goals in his eight matches, the Spanish club wanted to sign a long-term contract with the player. Not possible though due to his steep buying price of 15 million euros set by his original club. Ajax sold him instead to Olympic Marseille of France, where he was second best scorerbehind Cote d’Ivoire’s own Didier Drogba.
Side by side, Mido and Drogba created a dangerous attacking duet. But after just one season Mido would break awayand move to the Italian club AS Roma. In Italy, Mido failed to make any impact, playing only eight matches without scoring.
He moved on loan in 2005 to the English premier league to play for London’s Tottenham Hotspur. During his loan period, Mido played 36 matches and scored 13 goals. Martin Jol, coach of Tottenham at that time, expressed his desire to sign Mido to a long-term contract. Mido said that he did not want to go back to Roma. Tottenham secured the deal with a fee of 6.75 million euros.
By that time, Mido was the biggest draw in Egyptian football, having played in more European clubs than all Egyptians playing abroad put together. And all the teams were big names in big-time leagues. Mido never played in anything less than first division football.
Mido’s permanent move to Tottenham was arguably the turning point of his career. He did not meet the expectation of his club nor the fans during his second year at the squad, playing only 12 matches and scoring just one single goal. His poor performance would lead Tottenham to sell him the following year to Middleborough. The fall of Mido would continue with the Boro scoring only six goals in 25 matches.
During his contract with the red side, Mido was loaned out four times to four teams in just two years. First, he went to Wigan Atheltic where he played side by side with his national team teammate, Amr Zaki. Another unsuccessful short journey scoring only two goals in 12 matches, Mido returned to Egypt to play for Zamalek where he first debuted in the world of football.
Struggling with his weight, which at times go over 90 kilos, Mido had an unsuccessful return representing Zamalek in 15 matches and scoring a single goal. Mido was then willing to do anything to prove that he is still had it. He would go back to English land being loaned from his original club Middleborough to West Ham United after accepting his high salary be cut to only 1,000 pounds a week to become one of the lowest paid players in the Premier League. Despite so, Mido failed to prove his point once more, not scoring at all in nine matches he played. West Ham decided not to offer him a new contract.
Middleborough would loan their Egyptian striker again to another team he had played for before, Ajax. Going back to Ajax where he previously shined, Mido was a name carrying many expectations. Again he failed to meet them. The former Egyptian international again struggled with his ballooning weight which he could not control. Being totally out of form, he would only appear in five matches, scoring two goals. The poor form of Mido met with his contract expiry with Middlesbrough. He decided to retry to regain his glory and form at his old club Zamalek once more. It wasn’t the case still. Mido was never in form and was very much overweight during the season. Mido wore Zamalek’s shirt only three times during a whole season, scoring just two goals.
On the international scene, Mido is best remembered for his sideline bust-up with coach Hassan Shehata in the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations. In the semi-final against Senegal, with the game tied late in the game, Shehata substituted Mido for Zaki. Mido was infuriated and an angry back-and-forth was exchanged on live TV. Ironically, Zaki scored with a header to win the game for Egypt 2-1.
The spat was believed the reason why Shehata did not pick Mido for the 2008 and 2010 African championships.
On his quest to get his career back on track, Mido agreed earlier this year to sign for Barnsley. The 29-year-old though is still struggling to get in form. Being hit with an injury before the start of the season and still carrying his overweight problem, Mido was nowhere to be seen on the field or the bench except once this season. The only time he represented his new team officially was when he came on as a substitute against Huddersfield and made no real impact. Since then Mido has been more active on Twitter than on the field.
The Egyptian “Ibn Batouta”as he has travelled and played all through Europe, has been Tweeting very actively since his move to Barnsley, commenting on the political situation in Egypt frequently in the wake of last year’s revolution which brought down the government.
He also promotes his new TV programme Al-Alami (The International) on Al-Hayah channel. Having his own television programme in addition to the time he spends on Twitter and outside the field have made fans wonder if Mido will ever again be the player they once knew and he once was. And since Twitter has become Mido’s latest way to communicate, a message to him was very clearly put by one of his fans who summed up what everyone wanted to say to him: “Now we gain a good programme; I hope we don’t lose a great player in return.”

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