Thursday, February 7, 2013

Captain Bob: Egypt is not Ahly

Coach Bob Bradley has done an admirable job sticking with Egyptian football through all of the challenges he has faced since taking the reigns in 2011. He appears astute (even if somewhat overly tactical) in game planning, and all reports are that he gets along well with the federation, players and fans, a feat that should not be underestimated given their chaotic natures. However, his myopic focus on Ahly and external leagues for the national team's player selection is putting the World Cup 2014 qualification objective at risk. 

Not good
True as it is that the scouting process has been made more difficult because of the stoppage of the domestic league for twelve months (and major kuddos to all for getting it re-started, even if without fans), a goalkeeper as poor as Sherif Ekramy simply has no place on the team. He is bad with Ahly, and he is bad with Egypt. Mohamed Abou Treika's aging legs sunk Egypt in the decisive qualifier versus Algeria in 2010, and three years on, he is not getting any better, nor will he by summer 2014. Same goes for the likes of Wael Gomaa and Sayed Moawad. And who is Adam El Abd? No one had heard of the guy before, and for good reason since he is terrible, but Bradley constantly picks a sluggish defender playing on a provincial side in England, seemingly only because he is playing on a provincial side in England.

Coach Bob, you have a strong talent base right at your doorstep, if you can just see past the red blinders and overseas bias (and that somewhat annoying aide of yours, Zaki Abdel Fatah). Ahly players always have proven themselves to be domestic-only, leveraging on the tilted fields and corrupted accounts that the club has enjoyed. They are failures on the bigger stage, even at that pathetic Club World Cup they love to gloat about (where Ahly's headline achievement is having more losses than any other team, including a notable one to part-time mechanics from New Zealand). Also, the fact an Egyptian player finds himself playing overseas does not per se make him worthy of the national team. The non-European leagues where unfortunately many play these days are much weaker than those in Egypt. Even in Europe, it is in lesser leagues where, with few exceptions, only average players ply their trade, rather than the proven and emerging stars blocked from leaving Egypt by their over-demanding clubs.    

Egypt can win, but the right players, including Shikabala, the best Egyptian player for generations, need to be on the field to make it happen. 


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