Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Getting back the buzz

The fifth round of the national league competition was marred by a foray into Cairo Stadium by Zamalek fans during their team's match. Marawan Zayed reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

League matches were resumed this week after a one-week halt for the Constitutional Referendum. The lackluster performances and results of the past four weeks has finally given way to better progress this week. The matches, that continue to be held behind closed doors, saw some surprises that brought back the thrill and vibes of football.

Four matches were held on Sunday in which three teams were victorious: Enppi clinched a 1-0 win over El-Gouna , the Arab Contractors thrashed Ghazl Mehalla 4-0, while defending champions Ahli beat El-Raja 3-0. Ahli's win confirmed the team's position on top of the group one standings without waiting for the result of the last game of group A between Semouha and Misr El-Maqasa. The fourth match ended in a draw. Dakhleya and the Military Productions shared the spoils as they played to a 2-2 draw.

The entertaining encounter saw Semouha coming from one goal down to snatch all three points as the game ended in a 2-1 win for the hosts, who moved to the second place of the group behind Ahli, leaving El-Maqasa third after suffering their first defeat of the season.

Group two witnessed a huge surprise as the winless Haras El-Hodoud managed to snatch a point from Zamalek when they scored a last minute equaliser. The match was flawed when around 50 Zamalek fans, the White Knights, invaded Cairo Stadium four minutes into the second half of the match. Security forces faced the supporters and chased them as they set off firecrackers and were able to capture two.

They were released the following day.

A leader representing the White Knights told the press that their actions came in retaliation for officials’ disregard of their peaceful request to allow fans to once again attend the matches. He said that their raid of Cairo Stadium this week was the last warning to officials if they are not allowed in again. According to the leader, the group had asked to be let in beforehand, but there was no response at first. Then officials promised to open the gates to supporters once the referendum was over, but the league was resumed days later and still fans were kept behind closed doors.

To avoid the disgruntled fans, who became even angrier when Zamalek drew with Harras El-Hedoud and lost a precious point, Zamalek head coach Helmi Toulan decided to change the team's club training venue from the club premises to the goal project pitch in 6October City.

The remaining results of group two saw Ittihad El-Shorta and El-Geish playing a goalless draw, Olympic El-Qanah beating Petrojet by a single goal to move above Zamalek in third place and Telephonat Banni Swef defeating El-Menya by two goals to one. The last game of the group between leaders Ismaili and Masri will take place later this week.

Despite the league coming back to life and maintaining a regular schedule, teams and players are still facing several glitches.

First, many players are despondent that games are being played in the absence of fans, and that most of these fans have stopped watching the games on TV. According to Zamalek player Mo'men Zakaria, "I play week in week out on one of the best two teams in Egypt and Africa, but it doesn’t feel like it." He said even though he plays for a renowned club like Zamalek, many fans do not know him because they have lost interest in watching and do not feel the same towards football anymore due to the political situation.

Mo'men’s sentiments were echoed by Wadi Degla's players Mostafa Talaat and El-Hossary. They said players had lost the motivation and desire to compete on a weekly basis due to the absence of fans, whom they consider the key galvanising factor for them.

The clubs are also in dire financial straits, most of them still not being paid by the agencies. Sponsors are apprehensive that the games no longer attract the same volume of viewers, which brings their marketing efforts to naught. As a result, the sponsors pay the agencies in tiny installments, which is not enough for the agencies to pay the clubs their dues. The Zamalek Club is losing its best players due to its inability to uphold its contractual financial commitments. Ahmed Eid Abdel-Malek left the club to join Ahly Bani Ghazy and the team's superstar, Shikabala, is set to officially leave as the club can no longer afford to pay him.

Despite some clubs still suffering cash woes, the situation has improved compared to two months ago when nearly every club in Egypt was in a wretched money crunch. With more stability, it may be merely a matter of months until the league is back to its former glory.

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