Zamalek Bans Foreign Coaches and Players But Exempts Its Premier Soccer Team

Financially troubled Cairo club Al Zamalek FC has opted against hiring foreign players in coaches across its spectrum of sports activity, but has exempted its Premier League soccer team from the ban.

The decision comes amid heated debated about financial austerity measures proposed by the Egyptian Football Association in the wake of Egypt’s political turmoil that last month forced the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in office.

Egypt’s military authorities who have succeeded Mubarak with a pledge to lead the country to democratic elections within six months remain reluctant to allow a resumption of professional league matches suspended since late January because of the political turmoil.

As a result, clubs have seen their revenues dry up and fear that they can no longer count on government financial support. About half of Egypt’s 16 Premier League clubs are owned by government institutions, the military and the police. Coaches and players are resisting the EFA’s attempt to introduce a cap on transfer pricing and salaries.

Zamalek’s financial worries are compounded by controversy surround board member Ibrahim Hassan, and his brother Zamalek Premier League coach Hossam Hassan. Fans are demanding the resignation of the two brothers because of their support for Mubarak during the mass protests demanding his resignation in which Zamalek fans played a key role.

In statements this week, the brothers lashed out at their detractors asserting that they had demonstrated during the uprising for a restoration of stability in Egypt rather than in favor of Mubarak. Hossam warned that he would move to the United Arab Emirates if the criticism persisted, cautioned his critics not to question his loyalty.

“I do not deserve to be treated like that, I made a lot of achievements for this country. There are some people who are trying to force me out of Zamalek to halt my success. I will leave Egypt and travel to the United Arab Emirates if the unjustified attack against me continues,” Hossam, who spent time with UAE team Al Ain, said.


Hossam was assaulted this week while on his way to his office


The Ibrahim brothers have blamed ‘corrupt’ Egyptian sports media for their predicament. Privately, some coaches, including foreign traders, say their charge is not without reason. “A small group of intellectuals and youths is trying to continue the revolution by using social media and the press… The public at large simply wants to see soccer again as soon as possible,” says one coach who asked not to be named.

Zamalek’s problems are illustrative of turmoil engulfing Egyptian soccer in the aftermath of Mubarak’s fall as Egyptians demand change and greater transparency in institutions across society. With senior EFA and club officials under investigation for corruption, police this week confiscated the assets of Safwan Ahmed Thabet, prominent businessman and member a Zamalek arch rival, Al Ahly SC, Egypt’s most popular club. Yassen Mansour, another Al Ahly financial backer facing corruption charges, was listed together with his two brothers for the first time at number 692 on Fortune’s Billionaire List. Fortune estimated their worth at $1.8 billion. Egyptian Football Association (EFA) board member Shami Mahmoud became the first executive of the governing body to resign amid an investigation into alleged EFA corruption.

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