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Stay in the Egyptian Premier League or transfer abroad? KingFut debates
It’s becoming increasingly common for Egyptian footballers to opt for a move to Europe, at the expense of the Egyptian Premier League. Is this good or bad? Two KingFut writers give their verdicts from opposing sides of the divide.
Simeon John – Transfer abroad
A debate that has been ever going in Egypt for many recent years now, I personally feel that Egyptians benefit a lot more going overseas to develop as footballers. It’s no secret to anyone living in Egypt that this nation has a ton of naturally gifted young footballers.
But on a technical, tactical, mental & physical level, the sport is forever evolving. And while the Egyptian Premier League has produced top level talents, with many spending their peak in Egypt, today the coaching quality is as textbook and traditional here in Egypt as it was 10-15 years ago. While other nations have adapted their coaching methods to meet the demands of the modern game, Egypt is quite behind in this aspect. This in the long-term affects the players, who are the core of football coaching, especially at youth level.
If the likes of Mohamed Salah & Mohamed Elneny would have been playing in Egypt today, probably be playing for one of Ahly or Zamalek by now, we wouldn’t see them at the level that we see them play in Serie A & Premier League respectively today.
This isn’t me saying that the Egyptian Premier League or Egyptian football is bad by any means. I’d even argue that Egyptian footballers have unique traits & benefit from the nations football culture to a certain degree. One being street football, a phenomenon that shaped technical and mental development of many great footballers across the globe. This same phenomenon is one that is pretty much almost on the brink of extinction in Europe. The same can’t be said in Egypt however, as many young players today still play football in street environments.
It would do Egyptian players a great service to use the basis of these homegrown elements to showcase & refine them overseas. Traditionally, Egyptian Footballers that have struggled to meet the demands of football in Europe. A majority of them being the architect of their own downfalls admittedly. However we are seeing a change in this stereotype, as more Egyptians are honing their talents abroad at the highest level. This can only be beneficial for the Egyptian national team, who had previously missed the last three editions of the AFCON after the Golden Generation had won three consecutive AFCON’s before then, were able to make the finals of the tournament recently with a foreign-based core setting the tone for Hector Cuper’s side.
While pay in the Egyptian PL is also pretty lavish once you join either of the Two Cairo-based giants, taking the risk to leave a comfortable lifestyle in Egypt for unfamiliar territory elsewhere is a tough one, but one that will benefit Egypt’s Football for years to come.
Mohamed Farouk – Stay in the Egyptian Premier League
The debate on whether or not Egyptian players’ transfers abroad benefits the national team has been going on for quite some time now. Different views and opinions have been presented arguing both cases, but I for one believe that the basic notion of increasing the number of Egyptian players abroad is rather simplistic and not inclusive of all factors that should be considered when judging the situation. I basically believe that the impetuous to increase number of players playing abroad would not directly lead to the assured improvement of Egyptian football.
To begin by finding common ground in the argument, the main destination people argue would benefit Egyptian players is Europe. Other Arab Leagues were not considered a step up for Egyptian players years ago. Even though leagues like the Saudi Professional League have developed heavily marketing and technical wise while the Egyptian League has arguably regressed or stayed put.
However, the difference in technical levels between the Egyptian League and its Arab counterparts isn’t considered to be of massive difference that warrants the continuous encouragement of players to go abroad over there. Let it be known that technical levels aren’t a huge difference, but on the other hand the salaries paid are a whole different case with UAE and KSA considered as very lucrative destinations for players all around the world not just Egypt.
Switching on to the more disputable part of the discussion is whether increasing the influx of Egyptian players going abroad to Europe would help Egyptian football improve. To argue my point, it’s customary to mention the golden age of the Egyptian national team who have won three straight AFCON titles from 2006 to 2010 in a feat not managed by any other African nation. That generation of players were of exceptional talent and records prove it as they were ranked ninth in the FIFA World Rankings in 2010, which is the highest rank Egypt have ever reached. Infact only one other African team has been ranked higher. The fact that this generation was the best in Egypt’s history is hardly argued against with their undeniable remarkable record of achievements.
The point being here is that these players almost exclusively played locally with very few exceptions. To further prove my point, we begin by analyzing the squads from the three AFCON tournaments Egypt won between 2006 and 2010. In 2006, out of 23 players only three played abroad. In the 2008 tournament held in Ghana, four players played in Europe while two played in Gulf countries. The 2010 AFCON had two players playing in a European league and the same number played in Gulf leagues.
The best generation of Egyptian footballers that achieved what was unachievable had between 17 to 20 players out of 23 playing in the Egyptian league. These staggering numbers are basically the ultimate proof that more players playing abroad doesn’t necessarily warrant better quality in the national team.
To further illustrate the point being made you also have to look at other African nations that compete with Egypt and their squads which include a set of players who play for the top tier teams in European competitions. Some of these nations have greatly underachieved with the world class talents at their disposal, with the most recent example being Algeria in the 2017 AFCON held in Gabon. The Fennecs were heavy favourites coming into the tournament due to the plethora of attacking talent they had which included English Premier League winner Riyad Mahrez, prolific centre-forward Islam Slimani both playing for Leicester City as well as electric winger Yacine Brahimi playing for Porto among several other European based players. The team looked genuinely scary with how much talent they had, yet they never even made it out of their group. Title contenders with a squad that could compete on the highest levels due to their European experience managed to exit the competition without a single win.
Another aspect that needs to be raised is relating to the chemistry of national teams consisting of local based players. It is to be argued that the chemistry of the Egyptian national team would be better if the majority of players played in the Egyptian League, especially that the greatest number of players play for the country’s top two teams: Ahly and Zamalek. The point here is that national teams do not have the time for players to integrate and develop chemistry between them before competitions.
International football is rather simplistic compared to club football as national team managers don’t have the same time as club managers to implement an intricate system or formation that players can execute as clubs have entire seasons to be able to implement a certain style of play that players can adapt to. On the other hand, national team managers only have a couple of weeks before one month competitions in which they are asked to develop a system of play with players who hardly play with each other regularly. That is very apparent in the AFCON as European based players get called up in the middle of the season from their clubs and have minimal time to integrate with the rest of the squad while on the other hand, local based players in Egypt are mostly from the same couple of clubs and have developed chemistry between them allowing for better integration.
READ: ANALYZING CUPER’S EGYPT
I believe that the blind and uncalculated sending of players to Europe would deter Egyptian football rather than spur on its development. A set of questions need to be asked before sending an Egyptian player abroad; is the quality of the team and league better than the Egyptian Premier League? Is a mid-table club in Hungary is hardly better than a top team in Egypt for example. Whether the player is expected to get regular football is also an important factor as a player who is hardly getting into the squad with a limited number of minutes during a season wouldn’t be developing sufficiently; regular competitive football is necessary for the development of a player’s abilities.
Another important question to be asked is related to the player’s personality, Egyptian players are infamously known for their unprofessionalism and inability to adapt away from home with the most obvious example being Amr Zaki of course. A player must show willingness and hard work on and off the pitch by trying to integrate into the team as well as the country’s culture by trying to learn the language for example and to grasp the opportunity once he gets a chance to play.
READ: THE PHARAONIC STRUGGLE
Each player’s case is different than the other and the need to analyze each case separately before judging if the timing to send him to Europe is correct or not is of vital importance. I would almost certainly take a group of Egypt-based players regularly playing for the top clubs in the country over a collection of players situated abroad who aren’t getting enough minutes under their belts in lower tier European teams.
To sum it all up, I believe that the concept of sending players abroad to any European team thinking that a player just breathing the same air as the European talents abroad would unquestionably make him better is unperceptive and insensible. The cautious and learned approach of inspecting each player’s case separately rather than heedlessly sending every one abroad is of crucial importance and should be beyond doubt the logic followed by teams in Egypt.