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INTERVIEW: Egyptian handball phenomenon Ahmed El-Ahmar
Ahmed El-Ahmar is a handball player at Zamalek SC who started his career at the whites before his moves abroad in the Gulf, North Africa and Europe.
The current Egyptian national team captain has won several African championships and played in the Club World Cup five times, and won the Germany Cup in 2015.
El-Ahmar has also won many trophies with Egypt and has participated in the World Cup six times. He took part in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and is set to play in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Out of his many individual titles, he was the top scorer in the 2010 Club World Cup.
KingFut’s Youssef Wael sat down with the Egyptian handball icon for a quick chat than spanned a number of subjects.
Youssef Wael: What are Egypt’s chances in the Olympics given that we’ve drawn a tough group?
Ahmed El-Ahmar: We’ve drawn a tough group with Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Brazil and Germany. They are all very strong teams and it won’t be a walk in the park for Egypt. I’ve been to the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics and I can only say that the Olympics is a very competitive and tough sporting event in handball.
YW: How is the federation prepping the Egyptian national team?
AA: When it comes to Olympics there’s definitely more attention from the federation. They set up camps and a lot international friendlies with European countries and they have a proper program to make the players ready for the Olympics. Sports and Youths minister Khaled Abdelaziz is very supportive to us and all Egyptian athletes and it was very obvious in his huge role in the 2016 African Cup of Nations.
YW: On a personal level, do you think your moves abroad were successful?
AA: Of course, I had many moves abroad, in the Gulf, Northern Africa and Europe due to the flexibility of the handball transfer rules. Thankfully I won many trophies, most importantly, the Asian Club Handball League with Qatari Club Al Jaish and the German Cup with SG Flensburg-Handewitt. The German league is one of the strongest leagues in the world, Germans treat sports and athletes like a profession, it’s a way of living. You dedicate your life solely for the purpose of playing handball without any distractions whatsoever. The same goes to the Qatari league which is considered to be the toughest Arab league.
YW: Are you considering another move abroad?
AA: After returning to my home club, Zamalek, I had several European offers but they weren’t suitable for me. If I’m going to play in Europe again, I want to play in a team like Flensburg, a team where I can perform and the team can support me. I don’t want to move to a club where I’m the star player and everyone depends on me because I’ll be deemed to get injured, nor do I want to move to a club where I’m a second or third choice.
YW: How did Zamalek manager Ayman Salah influence you?
AA: Well, on a professional level, I reached a stage where the manager can’t add more to your technical abilities, he can, however add more to you physically. On a personal level, Salah is a big brother to me and all the players look up to, especially his passion towards Zamalek. When Salah wanted to return to Zamalek from Tunisian Club Africain he called many of the team’s current players to return to the club. Beside Salah’s return, I got confirmation that 5 or 6 important players were returning as well which was the main reason why I returned to Zamalek.
YW: How do the fans, especially Zamalek’s, affect the players’ morale?
AA: The fans’ presence definitely has a huge effect over the players and the staff. The fans presence affects the players so much that if we play with 60 or 70% of our energy, we can play with over 100% for the fans. Zamalek supporters love handball so much and they always support us all around the world, they are one of the reasons of our success.
YW: Who would you say is your role model?
AA: My father. Back in his days there weren’t much media exposure but he was a legend. Dubbed as ‘Captain Egypt’, my father won African trophies with Zamalek and played for the national team. He is reason I played handball.
YW: Finally, What are your future goals?
AA: I achieved a lot but I wish that before retiring I can win an Olympic medal or a medal in the World Cup. After retiring, I don’t want to seek a business career as I spent my whole life invested in handball, so why would I waste this investment? I want to do studies and take coaching licenses and continue my handball career but as a coach not a player.
KingFut would like to thank Ahmed El-Ahmar for his time, and wishes him even more success in the future.