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Ahmed Hossam ‘Mido’: A personal tribute to the well-traveled Pharaoh
“Today I officially announced my retirement from football. Thanks to everyone who supported me while playing, especially the great fans of Egypt,” Mido tweeted in Arabic, bringing an end his 13-year playing career.
KingFut’s Habib El Magrissy pays personal tribute to Mido, who blazed a path for Egyptian footballers in Europe.
A Nomadic Career
Mido’s career has seen him play for a total of 11 clubs in 7 different countries, starting with Zamalek in Egypt and ending with Barnsley in England. After an impressive first season in Europe with Gent in Belgium, he earned a move to Ajax where he scored 21 goals in 40 appearances. He was later loaned out to Celta Vigo in Spain where he became a fan favorite, but it was his subsequent €12 million transfer to Marseille that really put him on the map; it made him the most expensive Egyptian player of all time, a record he still holds to this day.
He spent only one season at Marseille before joining Roma, where he was then loaned out to Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League for the 2005-2006 season.
This was arguably Mido’s best spell of his career, and this is the part of his career that changed my life.
The “Mido” Effect
As an Egyptian football fan, I always want to see Egyptian players do well abroad. Mido was the first Egyptian to make the leap to Europe (at least in my lifetime), and when he arrived in the English Premier League, a competition that is broadcast live to millions of people around the world, he was suddenly much more accessible to me and other Egyptian fans.
I will never forget his debut for Spurs. It was February 5, 2005, and he started in a Premier League game against Portsmouth at White Hart Lane. After Portsmouth took the lead in the first half, Mido responded with two goals- the first a powerful header from eight yards, and the second a far post tap-in from Jermain Defoe’s low cross. His all-around display was magnificent, and Spurs manager Martin Jol lauded him with praise after the game.
For me, this was a life-changing moment. I would follow Mido, and by extension, Spurs, for the rest of the season. Mido had a solid 18 months in the Premier League, scoring 13 goals and helping the team to a 5th place finish. He signed permanently the following summer but was unable to replicate his good form, and was eventually sold to Middlesbrough after a disappointing season.
But the damage was done. I became a lifelong Spurs supporter, and remain as passionate about the team today as I was on that day in 2005 watching Mido score against Portsmouth. And I’m not alone. Mido’s exploits spawned an entire generation of Egyptian Spurs fans. Coffeeshops around Egypt showed every Tottenham game, and a subscription to ART (which had the EPL TV rights at the time) suddenly became much more expensive. Today, Twitter accounts like TottenhamArb and Spurs Egypt exist, bringing together communities of Spurs fans in the Middle East. The Mido effect was more powerful than probably he himself even dared to imagine.
Preparing the Way
Mido blazed a trail for Egyptians in Europe. He was the first to achieve a degree of success performing at the highest level, playing a major part in directing Europe’s attention towards the Egyptian market. As a result, he was followed by Amr Zaki and Hossam Ghaly, who had spells in the Premier League with Wigan Athletic and Tottenham (and Derby County) respectively. Mohamed Zidan also achieved success in the Bundesliga with Mainz and Borussia Dortmund.
Today, there are more Egyptian players in Europe than ever before, with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Mohamed El-Nenny playing starring roles during Basel’s Swiss championship-winning season, Ahmed Elmohamady, Mohamed Nagy “Gedo” and Ahmed Fathi achieving promotion with Hull City in England, Ahmed Hegazy breaking into the Fiorentina team in Italy, and Ahmed Hassan “Koka” scoring goals for Rio Ave in Portugal. Coffeeshops around Egypt were packed for Basel games, and the country’s fans celebrated with the city of Hull when the Tigers were promoted. The Mido effect has been replicated. Despite the fact that the remainder of Mido’s career was underwhelming, and his infamous falling out with Egypt coach Hassan Shehata, he deserves credit for starting this trend.
These players and all the other Egyptians in Europe owe Mido a debt of gratitude; he proved that it was possible for Egyptians to succeed in Europe. I too owe Mido, for introducing me to Spurs- despite the massive pain that inevitably comes with that. And I, along with all of Egyptian football fans continue to track Egyptians in Europe and support them, with the benefits evident on the national stage. Mohamed Salah, Mohamed El-Nenny and Ahmed Elmohamady have become better players by testing themselves against top opposition every week, and have established themselves in Bob Bradley’s national team. May the trend continue, and thank you, Mido, for starting it all and making it possible. We at KingFut.com wish you the very best for your future and hope to see you as a coach soon!
Habib El Magrissy is an Egyptian football columnist for King Fut. Follow him on Twitter: @habibelm.