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KingFut 1v1: National Team Selection: Local Players vs Pharaohs Abroad?

Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

After Egypt’s early exit from the , some blamed the Pharaohs’ failure on Hector Cuper’s dependence on Egyptians playing abroad, citing character and chemistry issues. Others, however, see that selecting a local-based squad isn’t the answer to Egypt’s national team problems.

Two of our writers could not agree so we made them defend their choices in this KingFut 1v1 feature. Youssef El Hadidy argues for a local-based team, as it would lead to better chemistry and attitude amongst the team. Malek Shafei, however, argues for selecting the best squad regardless of whether or not they play abroad.

Read on what they had to say

Youssef El Hadidy says…

The hopes of the Egyptian fans for the national team in their first World Cup appearance in 28 years were crushed over the course of three matches. Disappointing results were coming one after another, with each showing the deteriorating level of Egyptian football. The most apparent thing in this World Cup performance was the lack of winning mentality and the presence of recurring errors against smaller sides.

Firstly, it’s known that teams should always be at their maximum concentration in the opening and ending few minutes of each half. When looking at when Egypt conceded in the three matches, we’ll find it’s always during these minutes. Moreover, throughout the three matches, Egypt lost a lead then lost the match once, and failed to comeback in the score whenever they’re behind. This failure in maintaining a lead or fighting for a comeback successfully and losing in the final minutes became a trend recently for the Egyptian team. Example: The Africa Cup of Nations final against Cameroon when they lost a first-half lead before conceding in the final minutes.

Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

In my opinion, this trend has only one explanation and it is that our team lost the winning mentality that it was always known for. For example, the Africa Cup of Nations 2008 and 2010 winning goals were scored in the final 10 minutes and Emad Meteb’s famous goal against Algeria in 2010 World Cup qualifiers was scored in the 96th minute. So what happened to the winning mentality that the team had? I believe this is due to the fact that all of our foreign-based players who form 65 per cent of the national team are playing in teams that are not used to winning and therefore they lost their desire and hunger to win.

It is a fact that the Egyptian Premier League is not as strong as it used to be, especially with fans still not being allowed in the stadiums and Al Ahly’s almost exclusive control over the league. The question for me here is: Whether foreign-based players are better than the ones playing domestically, and whether the clubs they’re playing at offer them enough football to compensate for not playing in a top side in their foreign leagues.

The facts so far say otherwise, the national team spine is made of players playing in middle to bottom league clubs in Europe. With the exception of and Mohamed Elneny (who isn’t a regular at Arsenal), the rest of the team’s level is very debatable. Ahmed Hegazi and Ali Gabr (who didn’t play) were relegated with West Bromwich Albion in the English Premier League, Ramadan Sobhi was relegated with Stoke City, Trezeguet is playing at a mid-table team in the Turkish League, and Amr Warda plays at a mid-table team in the Greek League. Then, we have a group of players in Saudi Arabia like Kahraba, Abdel-Shafy, and Shikabala who didn’t win anything at their clubs.

Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

From the players’ point of view, choosing to go abroad is definitely more rewarding financially and to be honest many people if not most people might argue it is better for the national team. However, so far this overseas-based team is showing clear symptoms of a small football side. I believe that the core of the national team should be made out of players who refuse to lose and have shown the will and hunger to win every game. In my opinion, Egypt need to build a team based on winners not just players abroad although the quality of most of them is unquestionable, for me the question is their desire to win and attitude. In addition, the recent trends with the national team requires focusing more on players who are used to winning or at least until our pharaohs abroad become mature enough to withstand pressure and help the Egyptian national team restore its winning mentality.


Malek Shafei says…

The national team’s failure at the World Cup can be accredited to many things, but team chemistry does not seem like one of them. Despite the majority of the team playing abroad, the team have played together so many times with the same lineup that they must have become accustomed to each other. Obviously, chemistry will be improved if all of the players are playing together each week, but it does not guarantee success. England have historically picked local-based players for their national team squads at European Championships and World Cups, but while this is not necessarily a reason, the team has struggled at tournaments for decades. In addition to this, England’s best players stay in the local league, and seldom move to foreign leagues. One could even go as far as to say that the entire team being in the same league obviously comes with rivalries that might not be settled by the time international duty rolls along.

Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images

As a supporter of Egyptian football, I would obviously like to see the Egyptian Premier League become stronger. But as of now, it is a two (if not one) horse race every year, and this leads to a lack of competition in the domestic league. This explains why all of the local players who were selected to the World Cup squad only played for Al Ahly or Zamalek. In terms of talent, the best young players almost always go to Europe. Our best young players like Mohamed Salah went to Europe at a young age and never came back. Can you blame them? In Europe, they make more money, gain more popularity, and can achieve higher levels of success. Today’s crop of youth players doesn’t want to follow the model of Mohamed Abou-Trika, who, despite his success with Al Ahly, will never gain the money, popularity, or success that he would have reached had he played in Europe. Young Egyptian talent continues to Europe, skipping the intermediary of one of the big Egyptian clubs. Salah Mohsen did decide to go to Al Ahly instead of Europe, and the extent of his success with the Red Devils will be seen as a model for other players as to which is better. Ideally, I would like to see the best players in the Egyptian Premier League, as it would strengthen the domestic league. But Egyptian talent will continue to move to Europe as it stands right now.

I believe the national team squad should be picked based on skill and form, which is why I don’t have too many objections with Hector Cuper’s squad. In the future, I believe the Egyptian national team manager should not take into account whether or not he plays locally or abroad into their squad decisions.

Do you think Egypt should have a local-based national team, or should they depend on foreign-based players? Let us know!

Latest articles from the KingFut Team, covering Egyptian football in English from the National Teams to the Pharaohs Abroad.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Karim Salama

    July 12, 2018 at 11:26 PM

    Playing in mid table clubs in second degree leagues in Europe still exposes you to clubs and coaches with a far more professional mentality than even the creme de la creme of Egypt. You have to fight in every training session to get your prove your spot in the team, and even if you aren’t fighting for a championship, you might be fighting to avoid relegation or get a Europa Cup spot.

    I went to every single game we played in Russia, and I was virtually on the touch line. The look on the faces of our local based players when they had the ball was of fear, and they were completely out of their depth. Tarek Hamed and Abdallah Said looked at times like they had no idea what to do with the ball. While Amr Warda and Trezeguet(even Morsy) playing in “lesser teams: of their leagues had the drive to fight for every ball and push even after we conceded. They didnt switch off at the last second because they know the game isnt over until the ref blows the whistle.

    Even Ahmed Fathy our legend and hero of old, is playing for a club which walks to the league and has virtually zero pressure in any game, once he scored that own goal he was a different player. His mentality left.

    Playing in foreign leagues isnt just about the superficiality of whether they are playing for a team that you would choose playing FIFA. Its about being in a professional environment where coaches are trained and the game is at another level than the semi amateur establishment that exists in Egypt.

    • rsusa

      July 13, 2018 at 3:11 AM

      I agree with you. Football is a game of mentality and that is an aspect that is highly lacking in our local players that got even worse after the league was stopped (then resumed with no fans). Even our golden age team failed to qualify to the world cup repeatedly because of mentality issues. Outside of Africa, our local players have a serious inferiority complex that hinders their performance.

  2. thetruth

    August 1, 2018 at 10:53 PM

    Egypt disappointed me. However, I do not think this is a local versus international players issue. I thought that: 1) When Salah came back for the second and third games the coach’s strategy was not the best. It was a rudimentary “long balls to Salah” approach. They moved away from the solid passing and possession football they played against Uruguay in the first match. 2) Salah is a warrior but I think he was not 100%. Hindsight is 20/20 but maybe he should have been coming off the bench in each game. I believe this could have changed things.

    I honestly thought that Egypt was going to get out of the group and they had a chance of actually getting to the quarterfinal at least. I am a Ghana supporter first but I was hoping that Egypt was going to make a great showing for CAF.

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