Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1216, (2 - 8 October 2014)
Tuesday,17 July, 2018
Issue 1216, (2 - 8 October 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Soccer on the side - Yet another embarrassment

Egyptian football of all ages is becoming depressing,reports Marawan Zayed

Al-Ahram Weekly

That Egyptian football is in decline would be an understatement considering what’s going on with our national teams of all ages these days.

The past month saw our senior national team suffer two humiliating defeats at the hands of Senegal then Tunisia to make our chances of qualifying for the Africa Nations Cup slim if it’s still there really.

However, as if that wasn’t enough -- the senior team is set to lose out on qualifying for the third time in a row -- the under 21 national team made matters worse with a shocking failure to qualify for the African cup of nationals that will be hosted in Niger next year, officially announcing that Egyptian football is in severe decline.

The under 21 national team bowed out after failing to defeat South Africa here in Cairo as the game ended 2-2 while the game in South Africa ended 2-1 to the hosts. Because of the away goal rule, the defeat in South Africa gave real hope to the young Pharaohs to see out their opponents here in Cairo as just a win with a single goal would have been enough for us to be present in Niger next year.

However, the game started in disastrous fashion as the visitors scored two first half goals to make the task near impossible for the Egyptian team who then needed four goals to win the tie after conceding two goals on home soil while scoring only one away in the first leg.

Despite the shocking first half result and performance, credit was due to our players who came out in the second half in much better condition and looked determined to fight till the end but unfortunately even scoring two great goals to snatch a draw was not enough for us.

The failure to qualify was even more depressing after seeing our senior national team needing a miracle to qualify for their respective tournament.

The question now is what are the real reasons for such an unbelievable decline? Is it the players? Is it the Egyptian football federation? Is it the decline in the quality of the local league?

Egyptians will argue about the real reason for our pathetic decline but in reality it’s a mix of all these answers in addition to the absence of a winning mentality that used to be the driving force of all Egyptian national teams especially when it comes to African competitions where we used to be the most intimidating team on the continent, which led to three African championships in a row in emphatic fashion. You can never have a good national team that is capable of achieving any kind of success if the level of the local league is as weak as these days.

In addition, the core players of the senior national team either retired or are past their prime. All of a sudden players like Barakat, Abu Treika, Ahmed Hassan, Mohamed Zidan and Wa’el Gomaa retired while the likes of Hosni Abd Rabo, Mohamed Shawki, Amr Zaki, Hossam Ghali and others are either past it or not playing regularly on their teams which surely affects their form when they appear with the national team. Even the current Egyptian stars like Mohamed Salah and Shikabala aren’t playing with their clubs at all which isn’t helping at all also.

The lack of hunger and ambition in the current crop of players is as obvious as their lack of world class quality. It may take years and years to build another strong national team that is capable of competing at the highest level as the one led by Ahmed Hassan and Abu Treika.

As for the under 21 national team, most of the players in the squad lack the experience of playing first team football while more than two-thirds of their opponents in South Africa are already regulars on their clubs either in their local league or overseas.

In addition to the lack of experience, you don’t have stars on the team and you don’t really have players who can create something out of the blue or make a difference. In other words, you don’t have a Barakat or Abu Treika. Yes, sometimes it’s better to have a team that can play as a unit without really having an obvious star but unfortunately this team lacks both the quality and the unity which was confirmed from reports coming out after the game. It was said that the goalkeeping coach insulted his number one goalkeeper all week prior to the game and put him under severe pressure instead of supporting him which led to a poor game by the young Ahmed Gad who was responsible for the second goal. The young goalkeeper himself admitted and even cried in an interview after the game that he was treated in the worst possible way by his coach and confirmed that he insults him all the time.

If true, this case alone is enough to affect the national team in the worst way possible given the importance of the goalkeeper to any team in the world. His lack of confidence was obvious throughout the game and now the reason is known.

Moving to the senior national team again, they’re now getting ready to face Botswana in a must win game to keep their dreams alive and to put some kind of pressure on whoever loses from the Tunisia vs. Senegal game. Coach Shawki Gharib promised to make plenty of changes to his starting eleven and indeed he has called up only half of the overseas players that were called on for the past two defeats. Shikabala, Ghazal, Kahraba, Kouka and Hegazi were the ones to miss out while the rest kept their places even though they, too, didn’t offer much either.

10 October will witness the Botswana games, the first of which will be played in Botswana while the second will be played five days later here in Cairo.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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