INTERVIEW: ‘Dodo’ El-Gabas – Wadi Degla’s Egypt captain
On behalf of KingFut.com, Mohamed Osama exclusively interviewed Wadi Degla’s Mohamed ‘Dodo’ El-Gabas, discussing his remarkable club form, return to the national team and much more.
27-year-old Mohamed El-Gabas has been exceptional for Wadi Degla this season, scoring eleven league goals and providing four assists, pushing the Yellow & Blacks just a touching distance away from the top four, and earning himself a recall to the Egypt national team in the process. The former Al Masry, Lierse, Swindon Town and Arles forward has attracted interest from clubs both locally and abroad, but more importantly for the Egyptian, became Wadi Degla’s first national team captain when he put on the armband in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tanzania, which the Pharaohs won 3-0.
KingFut correspondent Mohamed Osama sat down with Dodo for a chat on his national team return, current form with Wadi Degla, next destination and more…
How does it feel to be back with the national team?
Firstly, I want to say that I’m really pleased to be back with the national team after a long absence; Gharib did not call me up during his time at the helm so you’d have to look back to Bradley’s reign for the last time I joined a matchday squad. It’s the pride of every Egyptian to wear the national team colors, and I’m glad I got the chance to do so. I’m also glad because I put in two good performances against Malawi and Tanzania.
Is there much competition in the national team for your position? If yes, how do you cope with it?
Of course; the national team brings together the best players from each position on the pitch and all of the squad members are playing at a very high level.
What is it like working with Héctor Cúper? What does he bring to the team that is different from any of the previous managers as Bradley?
Mr. Cuper is a great coach. His CV speaks for itself, and he is very professional. He likes to analyse everything. In modern football, analysis is a huge part of the game. After the Malawi match, each player was given a file that contained all of their stats during the game: pass completion, distance covered, as well as notes on their positioning and other tactical aspects. We found this to be very beneficial, as it allows us to rectify our mistakes.
Did you speak with Cúper directly? Was he watching you regularly with Degla?
Cúper, Egypt’s Head Coach, has talked to me a few times with regards to tactics and movement. It is great to see the national team Coach attending domestic fixtures that none of the big two are playing in. It is encouraging for every Egyptian footballer out there.
How was it like captaining the national team? What were the roles assigned to you?
It is honour to be Egypt’s captain at 27. It’s a dream coming true. I have never been proud of myself as much. Being Egypt’s captain is a huge responsibility, I’m that type of players that is always leading my fellow teammates, even if I was not my team’s captain at other clubs I have featured for, I am always a leading figure in the dressing room.
Today, our national team is made up of many young talents. Who of the recent youngsters that were called up have impressed you the most?
There are a lot of great new players. Ramadan Sobhy for example is a very good player, he’s confident, very strong, physically fit and I didn’t expect that he’s just 19 years old [Ramadan is actually 17!]. Also Mostafa Fathi is a very talented player but he must work harder to improve his physical attributes in my opinion. Saleh Gomaa also is a very good player that has great abilities and he will improve a lot during the upcoming period. Ragab Nabil from Wadi Degla also is a great defender, he will be integral in the next stage of the competition.
You played shoulder-to-shoulder with a lot of great players throughout your career, but who is best you ever played alongside and why?
At club level? Hossam Hassan. I played alongside him at Al Masry and trained with him. At the national team level? Aboutrika of course. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen.
Yourself and Stanley are the best scoring duo in the league with a combined total of 23 goals, how did this happen?
Stanley is one of the best strikers in the league right now and we just have some kind of chemistry between us. I don’t consider myself and individualistic forward, I like to play with others upfront and Stanley is the same. We’ve been playing together since the start of the season so we’ve established a link, and like you said, the statistics are showing that it has worked well. I hope can continue to top the charts as a striking duo.
Is your goal to go back to Europe? Or did you settle down here once and for all?
No, the goal is to return to Europe. If that doesn’t happen for any reason, I’m still pleased with the strides I’m making here in Egypt.
Wadi Degla’s rise during the past five years has been phenomenal, almost unbelievable, what do do you have to say about their progress over the last few years?
Wadi Degla are doing unbelievable great achievements these years. They are at the level they are at now because of their professional and respectable management, they have all the assets a successful club should have. In short, they’re a European club based in Egypt, that’s what made me choose to represent them when I decided to come back to Egypt.
As we all know, Lierse were relegated a few weeks ago, what are your thoughts on Lierse going down?
Lierse faced tons of problems this season. At the beginning of the season, a new head of negotiations was hired, he brought in a bunch of players who were at the brink of retirement.
They suffered throughout the first half of the season until the January transfer window finally arrived. From February Mr. Maged sacked the manager and the head of negotiations but the damage was already done, they were at the bottom of the table.
The new manager used players from the youth academy, player are around the age of 19 and 20. It was a big risk that had to be taken but the players did a great job, nevertheless and they won the first playoff, disappointingly, they were knocked out at the end of the second playoff.
I am sure Lierse will bounce back to the first division next year as they have an extremely talented squad.
Lets talk transfers, have you received any transfer offers this season? If yes, from Europe or locally?
Yes, I received offers from Egyptian sides, as well as two other offers from European clubs which I rejected, Greek side Panionios F.C. and Cyprus’ Ermis Aradippou. There is also ongoing contact with other European clubs but nothing solid.
What were your aims with Degla at the beginning of the season, the goals the board set for the team and what are their goals next season
At the beginning of the season, we were not aiming for a top four finish, but with the arrival of influential new players and captain Hamada Sedky, we did very well! All the players were motivated to do even better. Now we’re aiming for a fourth place finish. As for my personal goals since my Wadi Degla transfer, they were to become an integral part of the team, have a good season, score many goals and return to the national team sqaud again.
Do you think Wadi Degla will one day grow and be able to keep their best players from leaving to bigger clubs like Ahly and Zamalek?
Wadi Degla is a club capable of growing and they will surly become one of the biggest clubs in Egypt. There is one problem which is that they are a club without a fan base. No matter how rich or how tactically good a side is, they cannot overcome a club with a fan base. Clubs such as Al-Ahly and Zamalek with large fan bases, along with the media spotlight, is what makes a player want to move to that kind of club despite the professionalism of the club he is at [Wadi Degla]. I would recommend players who want to make the right move for their development and career to move to a club like Wadi Degla.
Now for the most important question of them all, is it Dodo or Dody?
*Laughing* I have been asked this question a million times! Well here is the deal, My name is Mohamed, I have been called Dodo by friends and family throughout my life, like Mohamed is called Mido and so on. When I started my football career at Masry, players, fans and even the manager, Dodo transformed to Dody. Friends and family still call me Dodo, but as for my football career, it has always been Dody.
I would like to thank you for your time, it has been a privilege interviewing you. Myself and the whole KingFut family would like to wish you the best of luck with your club and career.
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