Zaki: Next season the biggest challenge in my career
Little was known about the Egyptian “Bulldozer” Amr Zaki in recent times, who has been without a club since January following an unsuccessful spell in Turkey with Elazığspor. Zaki was undoubtedly one of Egypt’s top strikers, especially when the El-Mansoura graduate was at the peak of his career on loan to Wigan Athletic in 2008, where he was the English Premier League top goalscorer for a large portion of the season with 10 goals.
Like many Egyptians abroad, professionalism was a major issue for Zaki, with the Egyptian striker failing to return back from international duty to Wigan on numerous occasions, leading to the fall of the Bulldozer. In an interview on his official website AmrZaky.net, the freshly-tattooed Zaki reflects on the past few seasons and why the next one is the most important of his career.
First of all, where is Amr Zaki?
Currently in Cairo preparing to start an individual fitness program ahead of this weekend in order to be in good form for pre-season campaign with my new team.
Does that mean you have new club?
No, not yet. I’m still waiting to decide my next move carefully as I want to pick the right choice for me regarding my next move because next season is the biggest challenge in my career.
What do you mean by ‘the biggest challenge’?
The next season will be the most important in my career because at the end of the season you might find Egypt playing in the World Cup in Brazil, and this is a dream for any footballer to be included in his national team squad at the World Cup.
Is that only the reason you call it the biggest challenge in your career?
Of course not, I want to present a very good season because I’m not satisfied with what happened with me over the past two years, I should have done better than that.
So you confess that you had an unsuccessful couple of seasons?
Actually, you can call it a piece of bad luck for me because if you remember in the summer of 2011, I got an offer from Sivasspor in Turkey worth good money, but I decided to stay at Zamalek when Hassan Shehata was appointed as Zamalek manager because he knows how to get the best out of me and it was one of the best starts to a season for me where I scored three goals in four cup games, but unfortunately, we lost in the final. And also to score two goals in the league opener with a total of three goals in the first five games is such a good record for any striker, but later the league was stopped because of the Port Said incident.
So, you blame luck for your last season with Zamalek?
Definitely, because when you give a look to the stats, they don’t lie. I started the season with Zamalek by scoring six goals in nine domestic games and when the league stopped, we started to play in African Champions League where I scored two goals in six appearances. So, when you score eight goals in fifteen games, it’s what you can call a ”good record”. I wished the league continued, I reckon it was going to be one of my best seasons so far.
Tell us about your move to Elazığspor last summer?
The football in Egypt was off and Zamalek were in a bad situation in their African Champions League group, and nobody knew about if the league in Egypt will be played or not. And you know, my contract with Zamalek was hefty and the economic situation of the club was down because there was no football, and that’s why I waived 50% of my salary to the club that year.
So, I decided to leave the club to freshen them with some money and drop my salary bill. Elazığspor paid Zamalek €250,000 and I dropped around €100,000 of my unpaid salary to make the deal go through.
I signed my contract with Elazığspor on 29 August 2012 after two weeks were played in the Turkish league and I made my debut on the first of September against Kasımpaşa.
The biggest problem was that I had no pre-season with the team and didn’t train enough with the players, and the league there is very tough and you have to be fully fit for the challenge there.
I started to take part in some games until I played the first full game against Bursaspor on 23 September 2012, which was the best game for me with the club.
The club should have arranged for my accommodation visa so I can go and return to Turkey easily but they didn’t do that, and when I flew to play with Egypt against Tunisia in Abu Dhabi on 14 October, I had to return to Egypt to make the visa again, so it was a problem out of my control. I stayed ten days in Cairo to make the visa and the coach there [Elazığ] was changed and I missed two games with him because of this problem. I started to play with the new coach after three games under his management, as he pushed me in the second half against Kayserispor before he let me start the next two games against Istanbul BB and Galatasaray. I played the Galatasary match to help the team while I was not fully fit, which was not good as my injury got worse and sidelined me until end of the first half of the season.
Why did you leave Elazığspor?
The club was in a doubtful position in league table and they were unsure of survival from relegation, so they decided to reduce the expenses as they were in financial crisis because they did not receive the money from the federation and the broadcasting rights. They decided to release the highest paid players in January and they held meeting with me to terminate the contract. I dropped one-month salary to leave in friendly way.
How do you rate your time with Elazığspor?
I went to play in the Turkish League with high ambitions but the circumstances around me were not in my favour, but I have made good friends over there in Elazığ and the people there love me as I to them. And if I had the chance to play there again in better circumstances, I would not hesitate. I always wish them the best.
What about the Blackpool offer?
I got an invitation from Blackpool in January for a one-week trial with the team, but I asked the club if they could try me in one training session only, plus the medical check, and they did not accept. That’s why the deal did not go through.
You were going to join ENPPI last February, what happened?
When I terminated my contract with Elazığspor, it was in the last week of January where all clubs have made their limited winter signings, so the chance was slim to join clubs in Europe. In that time the league in Egypt was off and was about to start in February but nobody thought that would happen because they always set dates and delay the start of the league again. I had got advised to play until the summer in Egypt with any club to be under the spotlight of the national team coach, as i wanted to be part of the team in the World Cup qualifiers. ENPPI refused to sign me on a six-month deal and only wanted to sign a long term contract. We have agreed to sign a long term contract but with a clause in the contract to leave in summer with a fixed amount of money, and when they went to register me in the federation, they did not include the clause in the contract as we agreed. So I decided to terminate the contract and leave the club.
Where will you play next season?
This is a premature question at the moment, I will not be rushed this time because I want to settle with my new club for a long time and prove myself in the new challenge. I’m concentrated to have a very good season because when you are at thirty, you do not have more time to waste in your career.
Will you play in Egypt or outside the country?
Hopefully outside, and this is almost my next destination.
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