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The Pharaonic Struggle: Egyptian Players and Professionalism
Omar Youssef tackles the everlasting lack of professionalism among Egyptian players on his KingFut.com debut.
In the recent years football fans witnessed an overwhelming amount of players from around the world move to Europe and establish themselves in leagues such as the English Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga and other big European leagues. For the vast majority of football players, playing in a major European league is a dream they spend their entire career trying to achieve. Lately, African players from around the continent seem to be taking Europe by storm. We are not necessarily just talking about the superstars such as Eto’o or Drogba, but also the lesser-known African players that have still been able to establish themselves in these top class European leagues and help their respective outfits while evolving as players.
One may ask himself, how is it that among all these African players there are only a small number Egyptians playing in Europe? The seven-time African champions, who completely dominated Africa from 2006 to 2010 saw little to almost no Pharaohs set foot on European turf, despite their continental success.
The reason behind this is quite simple and quite an Egyptian one too: Lack of professionalism. While this problem obviously doesn’t affect all the Egyptian players, it’s still a common virus in Egyptian football that continues to plague most of the players. We all know about the antics of Amr Zaki in England or Emad Meteb being suddenly homesick days after signing a contract with Standard de Liège, and I could give a ton of examples where different Egyptian players acted unprofessional. While someone may rightly say that some players are problematic ones no matter what are their origins or the country they play their football in, we must realize that Egyptian players pick up most of their negative attitudes, lack of professionalism and negative habits due to how football is run in Egypt.
Even if the problem or most of it seems clear (lack of professionalism) we still got to ask ourselves this question: How do our players pick up these major attitude blemishes while playing at the highest level of football in the country? To understand the situation we have got to look at the environment surrounding a typical Egyptian player in his home country. While playing in what can be called a ‘top African league’ the player is still surrounded by unprofessionalism that touches his teammates, his coach and in many cases the club owners themselves. One can only look at how some of the top clubs are run and how the teams are managed to comprehend the sources of their woes. We will however only look at the problems directly touching the exported Egyptian players in this segment.
The typical Egyptian player who is offered a trial or a contract by a European club is generally and logically the top or one of the top stars on his team and he is because of that status, treated differently from the other players. For example, it is far from being a rare thing to see a star player on a top flight Egyptian team regularly allowed leniencies such as: arriving late to training sessions and even skipping some of them with little or no explanation to give, arguments with his coach, reacting à la Balotelli when subbed off etc. These examples are only some of what we can see and hear about as simple fans. Such acts will regularly be accepted because of his status of star at the club. Let’s not fool ourselves here and actually get into a debate of whether these things happen with all or only some clubs in Egypt. Even the biggest and most professional clubs in Egypt are run with at the very least a little and constant rate of unprofessionalism that seems to be accepted by everybody.
This type of behaviour and its impunity, while likely to create friction between the players and teammates, is also a time bomb for the player himself and are far from being things we should take lightly as it affects Egyptian football in all of its facets. The player becoming gradually more and more used to such free rides by the coach and the management becomes slowly but surely the opposite of a good professional.
The moment comes where this player is transferred to a European club. This king in his home country takes his attitude and bad habits with him to his new club thinking that he can act the same as he does in Egypt. Faced with the high level of professionalism and the consistency of it in all the aspects of the game whether its training sessions, game time, regular workouts in his free time to keep his body at 100% or even simple curfews can become tremendous challenges to a player that was once given the liberty to be totally unprofessional. The rest of the story is the obvious end to such a horror one with the player being quickly shipped back to his country if he is not the one backing off.
These types of situations are not only toxic for the player implicated in it, they are clearly a bad example for many youth players in Egypt and clearly make a bad name for Egyptian players and Egyptian football in general.
While some clubs in Egypt have stepped up with more strict and professional rules to how their clubs are run, the lack of professionalism in Egyptian football remains a serious matter that needs to be tackled if we ever hope to reach new levels beyond the simple ACNs triumphs and occasional World Cup berths. Off course, we can’t just ask the players to be professionals and hope it happens. Professionalism in professional sports just like in any other domain is something that goes from the top to the bottom and not the opposite. We need to implement professionalism and strict rules from the Egyptian FA, to the club owners and directors, to the staff and all the way down to the players to create a guideline young players can follow instead of dropping them into a system that is going to be the reason behind their bad attitudes and habits, and then hope that they become great professionals.