Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1204, (3-9 July 2014)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1204, (3-9 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Soccer on the side - World Cup or local derby?

Egyptian viewers were in a quandary about which of two much-awaited football matches to watch this week, Marawan Zayed reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

As the greatest and most prestigious competition in the history of football proceeds to dazzle its worldwide fans from Brazil, local leagues around the world have either ended or were postponed until after the World Cup. That is, except in Egypt. The local league is being played at the same time as the World Cup.

Egyptian fans waited for four years to witness another World Cup, but felt torn between two wishes when they had to choose between watching a World Cup game between Uruguay and Colombia, both teams massively impressive so far, and watching the biggest local game between Egyptian rivals and giants Ahli and Zamalek. Some Egyptian fans will at least feel thankful that it was not the game between Brazil and Chile that was played at the same time as the Ahli and Zamalek one.

Egyptian viewers had to choose between watching a World Cup game in Round 16 between two top sides in front of a 70,000-viewer fully-packed stadium and the most important game in their country being played behind closed doors as part of the 4-team tournament that will decide the winner of the Egyptian league this season. It was definitely a tough choice for most Egyptian fans, who were looking forward to seeing Ahli take on Zamalek.

As expected, the game between the two Egyptian rivals was dull and lacked everything you can find in a World Cup match. Both teams were flat, playing as if they did not care about winning. The players of both teams seemed more interested in going home to watch the World Cup than playing in such mute and demotivating conditions for the players.

The game ended in a 1-0 win for Ahli, thanks to an own goal from Ahmed Tawfik. Mahmoud Fathalla missed a second-half penalty as he blasted the ball high and wide in terrible fashion.

Asked by Al-Ahram Weekly about having to choose between the Egyptian derby and the World Cup, several football fans in Egypt felt it was a no-brainer. “The Egyptian league is becoming very boring and all games including Ahli vs Zamalek strike me more like friendly games than proper league games, which is understandable, given they’re all played behind closed doors,” Egyptian football fan, Hussein Hamed, said. “Football games without fans are not worth watching, so of course I went for the Uruguay vs Colombia match. I can assure you I did not regret the choice as everyone is saying that the local derby was extremely boring.”

Mahmoud Derbala, an Ultras Ahlawy member, said, “As an Ultras member, I didn’t even think about skipping the much-awaited local derby. But I have to admit that the game did not live up to my expectations. It was nothing like the old Egyptian derbies where you see two teams fighting for every single ball during the game and the fans of the winning team going out to celebrate in the streets of Cairo for hours after the game.”

Another more interesting opinion was that of Hussien Wahdan, who said that even if there was no World Cup game at the same time as the local derby, he still would not have watched the game as he is no longer interested in watching any of the Egyptian league games, which have become lacklustre, tasteless and lack any kind of excitement.

Ahli, led by veteran Fathy Mabrouk, managed to collect all three points via a lucky strike from Zamalek’s Ahmed Tawfik. Beginning the 4-team tournament with a win is likely to lead Ahli to retaining the Egyptian title. The other game of the tournament ended in a 4-1 win for Semouha over Petrojet in a game that confirmed that Semouha will have a real go at the league title after extremely impressive performances in the group stages followed by the emphatic win over Petrojet.

On another note, Ahli confirmed the appointment of Spanish manager, Juan Carlos Garrido, who will be in charge starting from the coming season after agreeing personal terms. Garrido made a name for himself in his homeland Spain as he had spells with both Villarreal and Real Betis, in addition to a run with Belgium giants, Club Brugge, in between the two in Spain. He is a well-respected manager in Spain for his time with Villarreal in season 2010-2011, during which he guided the team to a top four finish and a Champions League place. He took over at Real Betis last season, leaving the club after just one season, and will now start a new adventure outside Europe for the first time in his career.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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