Interview: Hassan El-Mestekawy speaks to KingFut
Leading Egyptian sports critic Hassan El-Mestekawy speaks to KingFut’s Youssef El-Hadidy about Port Said, Taher Abou-Zeid, Bob Bradley, Mohamed Salah, Al Ahly and more.
Hassan El-Mestekawy, a name that any football enthusiast in Egypt would know. He is a sporting journalist that we could easily say is the best in Egypt. Although having such a long experience in Egyptian football, what makes Hassan El-Mestekawy special is that he is still eager to read foreign media, still willing to learn the latest trends in tactics, marketing and management in football.
Simply, Mestekawy is one of the very few people in Egypt’s sporting community that wants the Egyptian football to move forward. After all, he is son of Naguib El-Mestekawy, the man who introduced the ratings system in Egypt and even gave Ismaily the nickname ‘Dervishes’ and dubbed Tersana as the ‘Hammers’.
We want to start with your thoughts on the Taher Abou-Zeid and Al Ahly dilemma…
It is a very old case in my opinion. Even before the Taher Abou-Zeid and Al Ahly board problem, we should stick with general Olympic committee laws. Unfortunately the state does not know what it wants from sports, do they want to control sports or just supervise and analyze the results and that happens in many places in Europe for example France. The sport shouldn’t be controlled by government and we should abide by the Olympic laws now because we will do so sooner or later, so the sooner the better. Taher Abou-Zeid should’ve met with the boards of the clubs and try working towards a solution; it’s not a battle that he wants to come out victorious from. Moreover the minister should put his personal feelings aside when it comes to business, and Taher Abou-Zeid had a bad history with Al Ahly board members and this affected his judgement as a minister. Though the law gives him the right to dissolve the board; this law needs to be changed and the way Taher Abou-Zeid managed this problem was not right.
What is your opinion on some of the members chosen by Taher Abou-Zeid to be in Al Ahly’s board especially members whose relationship with the clubs fans was pretty tense in the last few years like Mostafa Younis?
Let me first stress that we are talking about my personal friends. However, professionally Abou-Zeid’s choices were wrong. Starting with the president Adel Heikal because his age and his health. Also Mostafa Younis was a bad choice because of his personal problems with Al Ahly and its board. Moreover, members of the club believe that he is trying to destroy the club. Abou Zeid’s choices were impulsive and he probably did not think carefully about them as Al Ahly members clearly refused the decision to dissolve the board and were even planning a strike against the new board.
Hassan Hamdy. Is he really the strongest man in Egypt?
No of course not, Hassan Hamdy’s strength comes from his professionalism. What happened is that Taher Abou-Zeid mixed between Hassan Hamdy’s work in Al Ahram and his job as Al Ahly’s president which is a [dishonest] mix. Hassan Hamdy worked in the club for more than 40 years and what he gave to the club Taher Abou-Zeid never did a fraction of it. Hassan Hamdy is very successful and he made Al Ahly the most successful sporting institute in Egypt. Moreover, he is great decision maker and the secret keeper of the club. However his only problem is that he can’t talk to the media.
Can Khaled Mortagy be the head of the Egyptian FA?
Yes why not? He is young, connected to the world and has a great relationship with the fans. Anyways, the FA must go through full change.
When will Egyptian football overcome Port Said’s disaster and we will again have a stable league like 2010?
We still need a long time, changes in mentality. Moreover, the fans need to talk and understand that no one will have vengeance with his bare hands away from the law. All nations have disasters and bad memories & people get over the pain over time but the memory of people we lost remain, like the memorial Ultras Ahlawy and Al Ahly club made on the second anniversary of Port Said disaster and this kind of celebration must be done every year in memory of the Fans. But violence and trying to attack Al Masry fans is what I am against, some Ultras Members asked me why did I change my position regarding them, and my answer is always the same: ‘I didn’t change, you changed.’. The Ultras groups made great thing for Egyptian football but they also harmed Egyptian football with violence and they should stop thinking that they are stronger than the state or the Egyptian state will collapse.
What really happened in Port Said?
This disaster happened because of the aggression between the fans in the last few years, and I wrote that in an article on the day of the massacre. Port Said citizens were angry with Al Ahly fans because of the riots they made in the city in their last match before the massacre. On the 64th minute of the match I sent an SMS to one of the journalists in my newspaper telling him that this match will be stopped. The Masry fans wanted to [humiliate] Ultras Ahlawy. When Al Ahly’s fans saw people running towards them, they panicked and ran towards the tunnel where most of the victims died from the lack of oxygen. I said my opinion few hours after the match.
This aggression was always there. What was different on the first of February 2012?
There was a conspiracy for sure; a conspiracy from the police and the Masry ultras. There is some sort of vengeance between the police and Ultras fans because of some of the songs chanted against them by the Ultras and other ways of humiliating them, but still things got out of control from both sides. At the end I hope that this aggression ends as soon as possible.
When will the fans be able to return to their natural position?
Still a lot of time is needed, but not only time is what we need, we need smart media and smart people working to end the aggression, because after all the young people will pay the price for this aggression. My generation paid this price and if young people don’t change they will pay the price and we will never be a developed country.
Now I want to move to the problem Al Ahly had with the state TV and the Egyptian FA regarding the broadcasting of the match of the Egyptians league, who was rightful there?
Al Ahly of course. The matches are owned by Al Ahly and all the other clubs but because our system is a mess, Egyptian clubs allow the Egyptian FA to sell the league for the highest bid, but the FA just decided to sell to the state TV. Moreover, who said that the State TV needs to buy the Egyptian league to be patriotic? It’s like we are back to 60’s. Just a lot of nonsense.
When will we have a league with at least 10 teams with a fan base? Like Tanta, Mansoura and Montakhb El-Suez?
In my opinion all clubs owned by companies or government institutions must leave the Egyptian league as soon as possible.
Can we merge a team like Petrojet which is based in Suez with Montakhab El-Suez and so on?
This could be a good idea especially as I believe that it is not right to say that the ‘Army’ lost tonight or the ‘Ministry of Interior’ won today.
Let us leave all the darkness surrounding Egypt and move to a brighter spot, Mohamed Salah. Did he make the right decision to move to Chelsea instead of Liverpool?
The only thing that might give Salah the chance to have decent playing time is the transfer of Juan Mata to Manchester United, because Mata and Salah both play in the same position.Although I don’t like Mourinho because he always try to make a show for the media, he analyzed Salah perfectly and he is the perfect fit for his team. This makes me feel that Salah will have a chance to play in Chelsea.
Was Bob Bradley over dependant on Salah and Abou-Treika?
Yes, but there was no other option.
Would Salah’s move to Chelsea help other Egyptian players to reach top European clubs?
They must be fast. For example Shikabala must lose weight and become a faster player to succeed at Sporting Lisbon. Even Barakat would’ve never been a good player if he wasn’t fast. However Abou-Treka is a different case like Zinedine Zidane and each team could only have one player of that type.
What makes Salah’s experience better any other Egyptian player that played in Europe?
Salah is fast, calm, handles pressure well and of course skillful.
What about his personality?
He is a great guy, always calm always smiling, very religious and he is not the type of person interested in nightlife.
Who is responsible for the loss Egypt suffered in Kumasi?
The whole team was off-form, these days happen like when we lost 5-0 against Saudi Arabia and when we beat Algeria 4-0. The players and Bradley made some awful mistakes; our organization in the first couple of minutes was fragile then we were able to come back and reduce the deficit, at that time Bradley and the players became greedy and tried to equalize so we conceded a third goal which changed the game completely.
Was the high defensive line the main tactical mistake that Bradley made?
Yes, Bradley wasn’t smart as he wanted to win in Kumasi. We analyzed Ghana in a wrong way, Ghana’s is a very fast team.
Who is responsible for the awful defending in this match?
People analyzing the match just blamed the defense, while the real problem started in the midfield.
Is Hossam Ashour really a domestic player?
Yes, he is not creative at all he never moves the ball forward, shoots or intercept.
Is Hossam Ghaly irresponsible on the field?
Yes, he is an amazing player but very showy.
Is Walid Soliman national team quality?
Yes he is. Walid is very skilful but he’s not very physical, and moreover when he moved to Al Ahly he wasn’t the star of the team which made him uncomfortable.
Why don’t we have a classic striker in Egypt?
We don’t have a striker that can play on the high levels all of the strikers want to have the ball served to them.
Could Ahmed Ali be Egypt’s striker?
My standards are like the international ones, for example the number of goals scored per game, the striker must score at least 20-25 goals per season. For example, when Emad Meteb gets injured and spends two months out of form, commentators say he needs more games while Messi gets injured for 3 months and scores 2 goals in his first game after the injury. Our Media is the main reason for our messed up football system. This whole system needs to be destroyed.
What about Hazem Emam, Zamalek’s right back?
Amazing player for Zamalek and for the national team but his talent needs to be used efficiently.
Is Ahmed Shedid Kenawy Al Ahly and national team quality?
He is a not a bad player but not Al Ahly and Zamalek quality. I want you to know how great these teams are and that players playing at these clubs must be of a certain quality. Al Ahly is winning because the teams they are competing against are very weak in Egypt or in Africa and that is why some of the players playing in Al Ahly are not that good.
Has African champion’s league become weak?
Yes, but still it is great to win it.
What is your opinion on how the EFA treated Bradley after his contract ended? Especially after they refused to give him the rest of his salary?
When will Egypt qualify to the World cup?
2014 was our chance though we played against a very tough team, but what amazes me is that players and media were happy that we are facing Ghana. Bradley himself was astonished from the players reaction.
Mido as Zamalek coach is a good choice?
I can’t say right now but I really encourage the experiment, however the way Helmy Toulan was sacked was not good and the fact that the Zamalek board started looking for the FIFA license after they appointed Mido.
Who chose Mido, the board or the fans?
The board, but the fans approved the choice because they didn’t like Helmy Toulan.
What is your opinion on Manuel Jose?
A great man and although he sometimes was disrespectful to the journalists, he was right to do so. His character helped him to control all the stars in Al Ahly’s team.
Is what we see from Jose his real personality or is he making a show?
No this is the real Jose. He donated money to the Children Cancer Hospital and kept it as a secret. He is not making a show. Jose loved Egyptians because they loved him. He loved the fans truthfully. By the way, Bradley also made a lot of charity secretly in Egypt.
What about Mohamed Youssef?
He studied in Germany and England and has good potential. However, the team won’t be able to help him now. Also he is very popular among the players unlike Hossam El-Badry. Hossam El-Badry is very aggressive and if he doesn’t calm down, he will fail with the Olympic team. Jose was aggressive but a popular coach and that was what made him successful.
Shawky Gharib, what are his chances?
I think that he can reach the African Cup of Nations at least. Hassan Shehata and Jose are very popular among the players and the fans. Do they have similar personalities? No, but they are both great people.
Finally I want to leave football and ask about the 2016 Olympics, what are our chances to win medals?
Probably we won’t win any except in wrestling and weight lifting. Olympic medals require planning not this nonsense we are doing.
After spending more than an hour with Hassan El-Mestekawy the interview ended with him encouraging me and the rest of KingFut team to continue working in the hopes that Egyptian football will move forward.
A WORD FROM INTERVIEWER YOUSSEF EL HADIDY
Although I had a great time with Hassan El-Mestekawy the interview was very depressing, when you see one of the few Egyptian journalists who really know what they are saying that depressed and hopeless about Egyptian football it indicates that Egyptian football is a real mess and requires a lot of working to be saved.
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