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McLeish talks about accepting Zamalek’s job, safety in Cairo and current goals
Newly appointed Zamalek coach Alex McLeish recently spoke to the DailyMail after The White Knights lost against Entag El-Harby 3-1 on McLeish’s debut.
The Scottish coach discussed a few topics, which included his opinion about Zamalek before accepting the club’s offer, the fans and his job situation in post-revolution Egypt.
‘It would have been easier not to take this job but Zamalek are one of the biggest teams in Africa and the Middle East, which is quite some accolade for the club,’ he told DailyMail. ‘It’s a great challenge to try and win a title because in England, I’ve been fire-fighting for a long time.”
McLeish thinks that he is done with Scotland and didn’t want to sit and wait for a job in England. That’s why he is currently in Egypt. “I need to get out. I’ve done Scotland, I’ve managed Rangers which was a delight and I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to try something different, so here I am.”
The 57-year-old coach talked about similarities between Cairo and Glasgow when it came to football, specially the similarities between fans in both cities.
“The fans here are fanatical. If you think that there are 25 million people here in Cairo and it’s half and half between us and Al Ahly that gives you an idea of how big this club is. And it’s the same with the rest of Egypt. It’s the sport for real people here, just like it is for us in Scotland,’ he explained.
“A friend of mine who works out here told me if you think the Old Firm is a fever pitch derby, wait for the Zamalek v Al Ahly game.’
As for his safety and security in Cairo, McLeish said that he was approached last year for this job and spoke to the British embassy for advice. He admitted that he was concerned about his safety.
‘Believe it or not, there’s a guy who grew up in the same town as me, Barrhead, who works for the British Embassy out here, in fact he even comes from the same estate as me, Auchenback, where I grew up. I phoned to ask advice about Cairo.
‘I told him I was worried about the safety element especially as there had been such a recent revolution and he assured me it was safe, the people were tremendous and convinced me it was a great city.’
Regarding the stadium ban for fans in Egypt, he argued that he used the fans as part of the team talk in Scotland and England, since fans can bring more energy to the team. “But I can’t use that as part of my team talk anymore. It will be about self-motivation.’
‘I have a mate in the Middle East who works in Qatari football and they have no fans either,’ he said. ‘I’ve been over there and seen the likes of Xavi playing in front of a couple of hundred fans. I said to him I wasn’t sure if I could handle having no fans, but he told me you get used to it quickly.’
McLeish is also knows wisely what will his fans expect this seasons and the goals that he should work on for the team. “I know they don’t want to wait to win things, they don’t want to build for the future, they want to win it now and I’ve got that experience with Rangers. It’s that kind of mentality,’ he said.
‘I’m fully aware of the job situation here. That’s part of the challenge and part of the opportunity. Al-Ahly are seen as the top team here but I know my challenge here and it’s not to build a team, it’s to try and win the league and I’ll have a right crack at it.’