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‘El Magico’ Abou-Treika, more than a footballer
Mohamed Abou-Treika’s financial assets have been frozen by Egyptian authorities and the news has rocked the football family in Egypt, regardless of their club loyalties. KingFut contributor Karim Abdel-Jawad shares his thoughts on the smiling assassin, ‘El Magico’. Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of KingFut.
In response to the General Prosecutor’s claims that Abou-Treika’s assets will be frozen over alleged funding from the now-terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, Abou-Treika tweeted: “Confiscate the funds or whatever you want. I won’t leave the country and will work towards its advancement”.
The man was a genius, the greatest to ever grace a football pitch in Egypt – he had the best of touches, could find a runner without looking, he knows where the top corner is, he sets up his teammates for fun and made more than 60 million people happy on a weekly basis. One simply runs out of superlatives attempting to describe ‘El Magico’. However, there is absolutely no reason to go on about Mohamed Abou-Treika’s footballing abilities because there are no two ways about it, there are no ifs and buts; Mohamed Abou-Treika is the greatest of all time.
Abou-Treika is more than his 91st minute CAF Champions League winning volley against Sfaxien away in Tunisia. He is much more than his free-kick and tap-in against Orlando Pirates to seal Al Ahly’s 8th CAF Champions League over two legs, he is much more than his winning penalty against Ivory Coast to win Egypt the 2006 African Cup of Nations in front of approximately 80,000 spectators in the Cairo International Stadium, he is much more than his winning goal against Cameroon in the AFCON 2008 final.
Abou-Treika cannot be defined by his double over Club América to secure Al Ahly a third place finish in the 2006 Club World Cup, nor being the all-time top goalscorer in the illustrious Cairo derby with 12 goals. Above all, Abou-Treika is a human being.
Sadly, there are very few decent human beings out there, and El Magico is on top of that very short list of people. Before moving to Al Ahly in January 2004, Abou-Treika spent 7 years at Giza outfit Tersana where he helped the club get promoted to the first division. During his time at Tersana, a teammate and himself were offered a new contract, as both were having good seasons. However, Abou-Treika was offered a much higher wage, prompting his refusal to sign the new deal, presenting the club with an ultimatum: either himself or his teammate receive the same wage or they lower his wage to equal the one offered to his teammate.
In August 2006, Al Ahly’s talented young left-back, Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, collapsed during a training session and passed away at the tender age of 22. The Reds faced CS Sfaxien in the CAF Champions league group stage soon after, and Abou-Treika scored Al Ahly’s first of two from a free-kick; not forgetting one of his closest friends, he immediately starting crying on the pitch and kissed the black armband.
The playmaker netted a goal in the group stage game against Sudan in the 2008 African Cup of Nations, and after scoring, Abou-Treika revealed a t-shirt that read ‘Sympathize With Gaza’. His gesture came as a result of the Israeli siege on the Gaza strip in Palestine. He received a yellow card for his actions and could have faced a suspension but the CAF decided against suspending him. Under Israeli pressure, Google removed the image from its search engine.
In 2009, Egypt lost a place in the 2010 World Cup to Algeria and the violent events in Sudan led to a period in which Egyptians and Algerians could not stand each other. One man was an exception. Al Ahly played in Algeria twice soon after 2009 and on both occasions the man in the number 22 jersey received a standing ovation with the Algerians chanting his name as he was subbed off. The incident was repeated once more when Al Ahly were playing in Morocco.
Fast-forward to February 1st 2012, Al Ahly travelled away to Port Said to face Al- Masry in one of Egypt’s oldest rivalries. Ultras Ahlawy travelled a little less than 200 kilometers to support their side. The warm-up procedure was marred by group trouble, but nevertheless, the game went ahead.
Brazilian striker Fabio Junior gave Al Ahly the lead, but the Reds conceded three times in a game in which Al-Masry fans were literally in the track around the pitch for 90 minutes. When referee Fahim Omar blew his final whistle, the police opened the way for Al-Masry fans to head over the away end, the stadium lights went out and the away end’s exit was sealed. Seventy-two members of Ultras Ahlawy were killed that night for standing up against ousted president Hosni Mubarak and later on the military regime, headed by Field Marshall Husssein Tantawi.
According to then-Egyptian national team head coach, Bob Bradley, Abou-Treika was helping an injured fan in Port Said. The supporter whispered the Al Ahly icon that he always wanted to meet him, before eventually dying. The fact that remains is that following the incident, ‘Treika’ visited the homes of all but one martyr, as the last one was unidentifiable.
The league was suspended that year and when the FA wanted to start the new season later on that year, Ultras Ahlawy ensured that no domestic football shall be played until justice is served. The Egyptian Super Cup of the previous season was due to be played in Alexandria in September of 2012 between Al Ahly and ENPPI. Ultras Ahlawy marched for hours to the team’s hotel attempting to stop the team from playing the game, but the team was able to depart to the stadium. One man stayed behind, he refused to play a game in which the fans did not want to take place, as they believed that FA had a part in killing 72 of their members. He received a two-month ban and 500,000 LE fine from the club for his actions. In addition to being banned from wearing the club armband.
During his two-month ban, El Magico moved to Emirati outfit Baniyas on loan. Abou-Treika did not wear his favored number 22 on the back of his shirt; instead he chose the number 72, thus giving him the nickname ‘the friend of the martyrs’.
In September of 2012, Amr Hussein, a member of Zamalek’s ultras group was killed by the police/thugs of Zamalek president at the time, Mamdouh Abbass. Abou-Treika was the only player from Al Ahly to attend Amr’s funeral. Although Zamalek were Al Ahly’s traditional rivals, he knew what he had to do. From that day on, he gained the utmost respect from the supporters of the white and red.
During the 2012 presidential elections in Egypt, the playmaker was pictured wearing Ultras Ahlawy’s shirt that was made for the Port Said martyrs, it read “Never Forgive, Never Forget” with the name of the martyrs on the back of the shirt in the shape of the number 72, a touching gesture by an Al Ahly icon who is widely considered to be the club’s greatest-ever player.
Al Ahly reached the final of the CAF Champions League in 2013 for the second consecutive time. Al Ahly had the chance to win the title and become the world’s most successful football club in terms of continental and international titles. The first leg of the final against Orlando Pirates was to be played in South Africa. Abou-Treika opened the scoring from a curling free-kick and celebrated by bowing to the traveling supporters. Al Ahly conceded late in the game but a nil-nil draw at home would secure the title.
After failing to qualify to the 2014 World Cup, Abou-Treika announced on Twitter that he would play the CAF Champions League final and if Al Ahly won the title his last games would be at the Club World Cup. Knowing so, Ultras Ahlawy prepared a display attempting to make him reverse his retirement decision.
The first half ended in a stalemate. The man for the big occasions opened the scoring from close range to put Al Ahly 1-0 up. He ran towards Talta Chimal (the stand Ultras Ahlawy adopted) and jumped over the advertisements, made his way through the photographers and the police, and threw himself into the stand.
He was subbed off later on in the final minutes of the second half to receive a final farewell on Egyptian soil. His career was now complete. The greatest ever, Mohamed Abou-Treika.