Mohamed Abdel-Shafy: The Egyptian who conquered Saudi Arabia
The 32-year old left back leaves Al Ahli having won all there is to win in Saudi Arabia. In his first season, Abdel-Shafy won the Crown Prince Cup. His second season was even more successful with the capture of the Saudi league and the King’s Cup. Abdel-Shafy completed the quartet in his third season when Al Ahli won the Saudi Super Cup.
But the aging star has endured multiple injuries over the last months and has seen his time with the Jeddah giants cut short. However people may feel about the movement of players to the Gulf leagues, Abdel-Shafy proved that there are players where that is the most suitable option.
Mohamed Abdel-Shafy began his career in the Zamalek youth system. But like many of the Cairo giant’s youth products, he couldn’t find playing time and promptly moved to ENPPI. After, two seasons he moved to Ghazl El Mahalla. Abdel-Shafy eventually returned to the White Castle in 2009 where he remained till his loan and eventual sale to Al Ahli. Zamalek fans will always remember Abdel-Shafy for his intense love for the club and for his commitment through the years, even when he wasn’t actively playing for the team.
Most certainly, Egypt fans will remember his wonderful goal against Algeria in the 2010 African Cup of Nations where Egypt completed almost 40 passes before Abdel-Shafy scored Egypt’s third goal. Like with his clubs, Abdel-Shafy was admired for his consistency and abilities both in defense and offense for the National Team.
While players had played in Saudi Arabia before Mohamed Abdel-Shafy such as Emad Meteb with Al Ittihad and Hossam Ghaly with Al Nassr, Abdel-Shafy’s move to Al Ahli would mark the beginning of a new era in Egyptians moving to the Gulf region. Zamalek had just come off another disappointing season and had lost the Egypt Super Cup to archrivals Al Ahly on penalties before his loan was made official.
From there Abdel-Shafy hit the ground running. He made his first appearance for Al Raqi on September 22, 2014 against Al Hajer in the Round of 16 of the Crown Prince Cup. Despite going undefeated the rest of the season, Al Ahli would painfully lose the league to Al Nassr at the end. However, Al Ahli were able to make up for the loss by securing the Crown Prince Cup after beating Al Hilal 2-1 in the final. Abdel-Shafy played in all four of the team’s matches in the competition that season.
But what made Abdel-Shafy’s win even more admirable was his actions afterwards. The Air Defense Stadium incident where 22 Zamalek fans were tragically killed had happened just days prior. In addition, the three year anniversary of the Port Said tragedy where 74 Ahly fans were killed had just been remembered. Mohamed Abdel-Shafy honored those victims with a commemorative shirt.
— KingFut.com (@King_Fut) February 13, 2015
Though it seemed like a small act, it resonated with all football fans both in Egypt and abroad. It spoke volumes of his character as a player and his deep connection to the teams back home. But this wasn’t something out of the ordinary for the left back. Abdel-Shafy was known to be a player who shied away from the troubles of social media and was never painted in a bad light by the press. He was and continues to be a player who is well liked among Egyptian and Saudi football fans, not just supporters of the clubs he plays for.
Abdel-Shafy’s wonderful performances and his likeable character earned him a three year deal with the Jeddah giants. And Abdel-Shafy returned the confidence of the board with a series of great performances to break records with Al Ahli. Al Raqi finished the season with 63 points and their first Saudi League title since 1983/1984. They had never won the title in the Professional era until their historical win that season that saw them lose just one game.
In May, another strong performance from the Egyptian and his teammates saw Al Ahli overcome Al Nassr to win the King’s Cup for the 13th time in their history, extending their record. At the beginning of his third season, Abdel-Shafy was once again integral as Al Ahli beat Al Hilal, once again, to win the Saudi Super Cup. With the title, the former Zamalek star became the first Egyptian to win all four domestic titles in Saudi Arabia.
But from there Abdel-Shafy suffered multiple injuries that have kept him out of play for large chunks of last season and the first half of this season. That coupled with the rise of Saudi left back Mansour Al Harbi, have left Abdel-Shafy with little to no chance to regain form for the World Cup while still with Al Ahli. A loan move to Al Fateh could be exactly the remedy for the aging star.
Did Abdel-Shafy win titles? Yes. Was he an integral part of winning those titles? Of course. But his significance doesn’t stop there. Abdel-Shafy single handedly changed Egyptian’s views on players moving to the Gulf Leagues. Since his initial loan to Al Ahli, there has been what seems to be an exodus of either aging players or players who look to regain confidence from Egypt to the Gulf Region. In this winter transfer window alone, Ahmed El Sheikh and Mo’men Zakaria have moved from Al Ahly to Al Ettifaq and Al Ahli respectively, while Hussein El Shahat has moved to UAE Arabian Gulf League side Al Ain. This also comes with an increased reports each day of players potentially moving to the region.
Abdel-Shafy’s success with Al Ahli should be contributed to the board, his teammates, and the fans perpetual support, but the largest factor is his character and persistence. It would be very easy for Abdel-Shafy to return to Egypt in defeat after his multiple injuries, but his desire to continue to succeed in Saudi Arabia has made the left back a role model for players moving to the Gulf League.
What do you think? Has Mohamed Abdel-Shafy’s time with Al Ahli been successful? Is his transfer to Al Fateh the right move for his career? Comment below!
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