EFA must take action to rescue domestic football in Egypt
Lack of organisation and leadership resulting in inequality and hooliganism in Egypt. Making his KingFut.com debut, Ahmed Assem gives his perspective on the sad state of domestic football, and why the EFA are to blame.
“People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little.” – Jean-Jacques Rosseau
Political Philosopher Rosseau’s quote sums up the Egyptian Football Association and the Ministry of Sport in the past ten months. Unfulfilled promises and an inability to properly run football in Egypt has left us anything but gratified.
Whenever I read an article about the sterility of Egyptian football’s governing body, it makes me wonder how any Egyptian side can excel in either the Champions League or the CAF Confederation Cup. Al-Ahly managed to win the tournament in 2012, courtesy of their experienced players and a very professional board of directors. Take Zamalek for example, they only amassed two points from a possible eighteen during the same year. In this season’s CAF Confederation Cup both Egyptian representatives (ENPPI and Ismaily) were knocked out in the competition’s round of 16, leaving Egyptian football once again the victim of poor leadership and corruption.
Gamal Allam and his counterparts are proving to be much worse than their predecessors. Under Samir Zaher, even when there were sponsorship issues, Al-Ahly participated in the Egypt Cup. Remember in 2009-10? They didn’t withdraw from the cup despite their issues over sponsorship. Some may argue that Manchester United withdrew from the FA Cup in 1999-2000 to participate in the FIFA Club World Championship; however, this happened at the request of English Football’s governing body.
The current committee which controls the domestic competitions, led by Mazen Marzouk, have shown signs of incompetence. How can they even think about simply stopping football halfway through the current campaign? Although they were far from brilliant, the previous competitions committee stopped the league after the Port Said disaster. In the 2010-11 season, the committee resumed the league competitions for all age groups only a few months following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. Now? It can be safely called a complete mess.
Sometimes I feel that the FA are malevolent by nature. I have lost count of how many times the FA promised to start the 2012-2013 league season before it actually kicked-off. At one point, when an announcement was published via the FA that the league will start on December 30, Zamalek’s board gave the players a holiday! They were absolutely right to do so, the league started approximately two months after the announced date. There has to be a set system. Egyptian football cannot simply be in the hands of a few individuals. What if they issue regulations which harm football in Egypt? In my opinion, the Ministry of Sports have to interfere to ensure that Egyptian Football regains it’s status. For example, when Hassan Sakr used to sometimes interfere with regulations proposed by Samir Zaher’s FA to preserve the game.
Bureaucracy or Chaos?
Under the current FA, it’ll go down in history that the promotion play-offs in this season’s second division saw an obvious breaching of the laws and regulations. Although the FA have endless laws, a bureaucratic approach does not necessarily mean a better running of football. It can actually mean slower decisions. A match between Suez Montakhab and Al-Zarka led to fans invading the pitch and attacking the players. Yet when such shameful events are reported, the FA claim that the media are spreading malicious rumours. Another game between Al-Ragaa and Baladeyet El-Mahalla ended in despair as the referees were attacked by the Mahalla coaches after they awarded a debatable penalty to Ragaa. It almost seems that they knew the FA wouldn’t take action!
Until now, we have no clue as to whether the match has been cancelled or not. Gamal Allam has been talking lately about taking an action against hooliganism and such shameful behaviour: Where is this action? Show us that we’ve made erroneous assumptions all along, and that the FA are a powerful association that can properly run football in Egypt. I feel that if an organisation like the Football League in England was set up, this would mean a much less workload on the current FA. It would be a form of decentralisation, but it’ll mean decisions will be made much quicker under set rules. The Egyptian FA have to control the Premier League, Division B, Division C and the Cup. Of course, if the Football League is set up then there will be an organisation fully dedicated to the lower divisions, speeding up the decision process as a result.
Selling the Product is not easy
Another major problem are the broadcasting rights. Due to this season’s mess, several channels opted not to buy the rights for the Egyptian League. What is more of a joke is that sometimes channels opt not to air the national team’s games. For example, the government channels (1 and 2) chose to show a round of 16 game in the Egyptian Cup between Al-Nasr and Al-Ittihad instead of airing the Egypt and Botswana friendly last week.
There has to be clarity before next season starts. Until the draw occurred, no one really knew when the cup was going to be played this season. Do they expect channels to buy the rights for Egypt Cup matches when details like these are hidden? The Competitions Committee has to issue the dates of the league matchdays and fixtures before the season begins. This will urge channels to buy the rights to air league matches and therefore help to put the Egyptian hidden talents on display, which can ultimately increase the variety of players under Bob Bradely’s disposal as he will be more aware of players who have rose onto the scene.
The ground problem has been raised by several pundits over the course of the season. Teams like Ghazl El-Mahalla, Telephonat Beni Suef and Misr El-Maqassa play outside of their respective governorates, while others like ENPPI get to play on their home ground for most of the season.
Telephonat Beni Suef manager Talaat Youssef said: “We, Mahalla and El-Maqassa are not simply playing on other grounds, we play outside of our governorates!” A game between Al-Ittihad and Petrojet early in the season saw a change of grounds approximately an hour before the game. After the change took place, the EFA figured out that the new ground had a floodlight problem!
A competitive league cannot be unfair. Wouldn’t that always mean when ENPPI face Ghazl El-Mahalla, the former have a clear home advantage? The results due to this unfairness would give the impression that the league is weak. For example, imagine all of the English Premier League teams this season played at Loftus Road, an extremely small stadium which only holds approximately 19,000 spectators. (Did you know that it actually holds less spectators than ENPPI’s Petro Sport Stadium?) Yet when Al-Ahly or Zamalek face ENPPI in the away fixture, they play it in the Arab Contractors Stadium. In fact, Al-Ahly and Zamalek, in theory, do not play away from home that much.
Starting next season, there needs to be equality. It helps strengthen the league, improve its marketing and it will also limit the complaints from the teams competing.
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