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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Zamalek financial crisis reflects impact of Egypt’s political turmoil on soccer


Zamalek midfielder Ashour El-Adham wants to leave because he is not being paid (Source: FilGoal.com)


Crowned Cairo club Al Zamalek SC is struggling to resolve a financial crisis that has hit most Egyptian soccer teams in the wake of this year’s overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

Midfielder Mohamed Ashour El-Adham, in the latest blow to Zamalek, has asked the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) to allow him to terminate his contract with the team.

"I have only received 60 per cent of the season's salary," Mr El-Adham told Al Ahram Online. He said all his efforts to resolve the issue of an outstanding $100,000 in salary had failed.

The 26-year-old player had postponed negotiations with Egyptian Premier League team Al Gouna, hoping the he could reach an agreement with Zamalek.

Mr. El-Adham said the crisis in Zamalek had demoralized him.“The atmosphere inside the club is so unhealthy," he told Egyptian soccer website FilGoal.com.

Zamalek like many Egyptian clubs was hit hard by a three-month suspension of all soccer matches earlier this year designed to prevent the soccer pitch from becoming an opposition rallying point in the run-up and aftermath of Mr. Mubarak’s ousting.

Egyptian soccer has since the president’s departure has been racked by demands for an end to corruption in the beautiful game and the dismissal of officials appointed during the Mubarak era.

Mr. Mubarak used soccer, Egypt’s most popular support that evokes deep-seated emotions, to shor up his tarnished image and detract attention from the country’s political, economic and social problems.

Militant fans of Zamalek and its Cairo arch rival, Al Ahly SC, played a key role in the mass anti-government protests that led to Mr. Mubarak’s resignation and have since been in the front line of demands for reform of Egyptian soccer.

Zamalek’s financial difficulties are also holding up the transfer of Egyptian national team captain Ahmed Hassan is yet to finalise his move to the Whites, with his financial demands still an obstacle to the deal.

Like Mr. El-Adham, Mr. Hassan has put on hold an offer from another Premier League club, Port Said’s Al Masry SC, in the hope that Zamalek can resolve its financial difficulties.

The problems have also delayed the hiring of Hassan Shehata, one of Egypt’s best coaches ever who led the national team to three successful wins of the African Cup of Nations, as coach.

Mr. Shehata resigned as national coach earlier this year after Egypt for the first time in 29 years failed to advance to the African championship finals.

Mr. Shehata like Zamalek board member Ibrahim Hassan was heavily criticized by fans for supporting Mr. Mubarak during the protests. His failure to this year lead Egypt to the African finals was blamed partly on his failure to introduce younger players into the national team as well as on the effects of the political turmoil in the country.

The Zamalek board is expected to discuss a resolution to the crisis on Wednesday. The crisis is compounded by the resignation from the board of Abdullah George over Zamalek’s failure to ensure Mr. Shehata’s hiring as coach.

“We will talk to George and we will make him stay as he is a very important member," Zamalek president Galal Ibrahim was quoted as saying on the club's official website.

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