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Ramadan Tales E10: Zamalek hammer European champions West Ham

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In Episode 10 of our Ramadan Tales we look back at the game where Zamalek truly outclassed then UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup champions West Ham, putting a ‘dirty big grin’ on the sphinx with their mesmerising play.

It’s a special occasion whenever an Egyptian side overcomes a foreign side, but when the defeat is so comprehensive, then it’s a sign of a footballing masterclass and undoubtedly a special occasion.

To some, West Ham might be a midtable side, to others they might be remembered –more recently – for one of the greatest escapes in English Premier League history in the 2006/07, when Carlos Tevez’s lone goal at Old Trafford against newly-crowned champions Manchester United secured survival on the final day of the season.

However, when the East Londoners dressed in claret and blue visited Cairo to face the Whites in 1966, they were the antithesis of their current state. The Hammers weren’t just a side from England, they’d won the now defunct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965, as well as winning the FA Cup a year before.

West Ham

In fact, three of the Hammers’ squad were members of Sir Alf Ramsey’s victorious 1966 World Cup winning side. To put that into perspective, that is the same amount of players as Manchester United and Liverpool. All three went on to become national heroes. Bobby Moore was captain of the side, Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 win in the final against West Germany, becoming the first and only player to every do so. Finally, Martin Peters scored the Three Lions’ second goal in the final. All in all, Moore was captain, and two players scored England’s four goals in the showdown at Wembley, one of whom scored a hat-trick.

The game against Zamalek in late November of 1966 was – according to the club – a trip ‘intended to take the players into a welcome spell of sunshine during the last days of November, as well as adding to their experience of foreign opposition’. Of course, as the title would tell, it was far from the case.

Such games – known as ‘Challenge matches’ – were sort of the trend at the time, with Pele’s Santos frequently visiting Europe for instance, and Real Madrid visiting Cairo to face the Whites five years prior. The truth is that the White Castle – this time – had challenged a solid European side with three World Cup winners, and the result wasn’t a tad bit expected.

When the club arrived in the Egyptian capital, they spent time sight-seeing – witnessing several of Cairo’s attractions; however, what happened next was catastrophic. Their meal towards the end of the day brought about food poisoning amongst the camp, with World Cup winner Peters and Alan Sealey ruled out of the game due to feeling ‘critically ill’.


That wasn’t the only thing the Hammers didn’t expect, as they were met with a hostile 50,000 crowd at the Zamalek Stadium on November 30 1966, and a perfect Whites side led by greats such as the late Taha Basry and Hamada Emam.

zamalek west ham

Zamalek XI: Samir Mohamed Aly, Yakan Hussein, Ahmed Mostafa, Ahmed Raafat, Mahmoud Abou-Regeila, Abdelkarim El-Gohary, Abdel-Maksoud Salah (Ali Mosen), Omar El-Nour, Taha Basri, Hamada Emam, Ahmed Effat.

West Ham XI: Jim Standen, Jack Burkett, John Charles, Eddie Bovington, Ken Brown, Bobby Moore, Peter Brabrook, Ronnie Boyce, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, John Sissons.

Even the commentating was special, with Mohamed Latif – who is often credited for making Egyptians truly understand and appreciate the game – taking charge of commentary, even going as far as saying that the Hammers wear “tarabeeshy red”, in reference to the claret part of their shirts.

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Zamalek started off the game in electrifying fashion before eventually taking the lead when Hamada Emam controlled a cross from the right-hand side before sending the stadium into raptures when he struck past Jim Standen.

West Ham though went into full gear and showed their inner champions, when Ronnie Boyce hit a scrumptious volley into the roof of the net; 1-1. The game though, was all Zamalek after the goal.

Emam came back to haunt Standen once again when he made it 2-1 with a wonderful volley; Taha Basri was next to get his name on the scoresheet. combining really well with Emam before sending in a cross that was cleared really badly by Bovington, allowing him to go through on goal and make it 3-1.

Latif at that point was speechless, as he was in awe by Zamalek’s style of play in the build-up when Hamada Emam’s backheel found Basri, before the latter put the cross into the box.

“Of course, if you’ve just come home you’d expect to see Zamalek losing 2-1..Oh my word!”

Abdelkarim El-Gohary, who was very active in the game, had his efforts rewarded in the second half when he received the ball on the edge of the box before unleashing a strike that took a slight deflection of Basri; 4-1 the score, with fans sitting behind Standen’s goal celebrating the scoreline on the pitch.

Hamada Emam then got his hat-trick to heap more misery on the East London outfit, as he finshed off a cross from the right by nodding it into the goal. Pandemoium in Cairo, West Ham were well and truly outplayed.

Zamalek vs West Ham

The result was a ignominious, with the Daily Express newspaper dedicating a cartoon to the game, showing a euphoric sphinx, with the Egyptian holding a newspaper with the result on the cover telling the tourist “Mister, it used to be an inscrutable smile, but since West Ham, she’s put on a dirty big grin”.

Previous Episodes:

Al Ahly fanatic and Italian football aficionado. Working on a degree in Business Administration at the American University in Cairo.

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