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Abou-Treika Tribute: The Egyptian maestro whose smile lit up millions

Abou-Treika - Club World Cup’s Omar Khairallah pays tribute to the legendary , who announced his retirement from football last week.

Abou-Treika, Giza’s Rising Son

On the 7th of November, 1978, Mohamed Abou-Treika was born in Giza – the city famous for the Pyramids – to two poor parents would’ve never imagined that their son would later be as iconic, for many Egyptians, as the three great monuments.

Like most Egyptians, Abou-Treika spent his free time playing football in narrow alleys – which massively developed his ball control skills – before joining Tersana (Arsenal) Sporting Club’s youth setup. Not only were the club very successful in the past, but they were on the other side of the street from Zamalek SC, literally.

When Mohamed Abou-Treika went to tryout with his friend at Tersana SC at the age of 12 – with the hopes of becoming a professional footballer later on in his life to be able to help his family financially – youth coach Hamalawi asked him to show him some kick ups. 70, 80, 100, 120, by the time he reached 150 Hamalawi said: “Son, stop. That’s enough.” The Tersana youth coach didn’t have the patience to wait for Treika to drop the ball but he was already convinced by his raw talent. Little did they know however that he’d end up being one of ’s greatest ever footballers, and Africa’s too.

While playing for Tersana SC, Mohamed was offered a new contract with a higher wage, while a teammate who played as a defender was offered a new contract at the same time but with a more modest wage. Abou-Treika refused to sign the new contract until his wages were lowered to that of his teammate’s. He insisted on equality between everyone, despite Hassan El-Shazli – the coach who promoted Treika to Tersana’s first team – trying to convince him that he was more important to the team than everyone else.

In January 2004, Abou-Treika was very close to signing for Zamalek SC before he joined the club’s rivals Al Ahly in the last moment – a moment he labels as a career defining one. Mohamed always played with a trademark smile on his face, whether he’s winning or losing, which reflected off his polished right foot (and sometimes left foot, too). With his beautiful displays for Al Ahly, he earned his first call to the Egyptian national team, which gave him the chance to showcase his relatively unknown talents on the international level.

Answering the Call

Often compared to French legend Zinedine Zidane, as his football was always easy on the eye – very simple, yet very effective. Treika will no doubt be remembered for his humility, his simple-yet-killer outside of the boot passes, and also for his decisive goals – for both Al Ahly and the Egyptian national team. In 2006, he scored the winning penalty against Ivory Coast to crown Egypt with its fifth African Cup of Nations title, before scoring the winning goal two years later against Cameroon in the final to secure Egypt’s sixth continental title.

Watch his winner against Cameroon below:

Also in 2006, Abou-Treika managed to score a spectacular goal in the final minutes of the CAF Champions league final against CS Sfaxien of Tunisia, to secure the fifth title for the Cairo-based club.

Much More Than Football

Abou-Treika’s actions off the pitch were as important as those on the pitch. In the 2008 African Cup of Nations, after Treika scored against Sudan he flashed an undershirt which read “Sympathize with Gaza” as he was protesting against Israel’s 10-day blockade of Gaza. After the tournament, he publicly revealed that his action was a personal statement from himself, as he felt much sympathy for the children of Gaza Strip who were under siege. He felt sorry for the starving and suffering families.

Abou-Treika - Gaza

After the Port Said massacre, at which 72 members of Ultras Ahlawy were killed, Treika publicly stated that he’ll be supporting the club’s ultras group. Months later, he refused to take place in the Egyptian Super Cup against ENPPI, making a statement that domestic football shouldn’t resume until the families of the martyrs win their rights.

When Abou-Treika talks about himself, in public or private, the word he often uses is ‘blessed’. He thanks God, his parents, and his siblings for every single achievement he’s ever accomplished. The simplicity of Abou-Treika, on and off the pitch was the catalyst for winning games and people’s hearts.

Abou-Treika - Ahly

What They Say

“He [Abou-Treika] is possibly the greatest footballer in the history of the world with a bachelor’s diploma in philosophy hanging on the wall of his sitting room. He is arguably the best footballer on Earth not playing his trade in Europe or South America. And Does staying in Egypt make him gutless and unambitious because he won’t measure himself against the world’s best on a regular basis? Or, in fact, should he be admired for remaining loyal to his homeland, simply being happy with what he has achieved and not feeling the need to chase the glamor and millions of the Premier League or La Liga.” – Gabriele Marcotti

“He [Abou-Treika] is respected not just as a player but as a man. He did all of the right things to keep himself at a high level. He is without a doubt a leader for us, and he brings experience and intelligence in a way that can make a very big difference in the group.” – Bob Bradley in March 2013

“Abou-Treika is the best person I’ve met in my entire life, because he is a fantastic person. He is concerned about all the people all the time, especially the poor.” – Former Al Ahly coach Manuel José

Abou-Treika in Numbers:

106 goals in 288 matches for Al Ahly.

38 goals in 104 caps for the Egyptian national team.

32 goals in the CAF Champions League.

15 goals scored for Egypt in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. (Record holder)

13 goals in the Cairo derby against rivals Zamalek. (All-time joint top scorer)

11 appearances in the FIFA Club World Cup. (Joint record holder)

7 consecutive times winner of the Egyptian Premier League.

5 times winner of the CAF Champions League.

5 goals in the CAF Champions League final. (Record holder)

5 times winner of the Egyptian Super Cup.

3 times CAF Africa based player of the year award. (Record holder)

3 times winner of the African Super Cup.

2 times winner of the African Cup of Nations.

2 times winner of the Egyptian Cup.

2 features in’s top 50 players of the year.

1 time winner of the Bronze medal in the FIFA Club World Cup.

1 time winner of the Gulf Champions League with Baniyas SC.

1 time voted BBC’s African Footballer of the year in 2008 .

Mohamed Abou-Treika may have decided to hang up his boots – and he will be sorely missed – but he’ll always be remembered as the player who always played with a smile on his face, that made millions smile back.

Thank you for the countless unforgettable moments, and for the multitudinous games that we’ve enjoyed watching your brilliance. Thank you, El Magico!

Social Media & PR manager of Economics graduate from The American University in Cairo. Currently working in the IT sector. Jack of all trades. YNWA.

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