It is the third consecutive time for Egypt to exit the qualifiers of African Cup of Nations. The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has not been able to organise regular local tournaments. The last tournament it organised was the premier and Egypt cup, both held in 2015and throughout a period of nine months, despite the absence of an audience.
The EFA faced harsh criticism due to players’ transfer deals and failing to follow the rules and regulations put forth by its own officials. The most prominent of these rules were the points’ deductions, or other penalisations, from the team whose fans attempt to enter any stadiums during games in violation of the state’s and the EFA’s decision to resume the league without audience.
The greatest blow was the decision to punish Al-Ahly’s newest player by banning him from playing for a period of six months, in addition to fining him for almost EGP 133,000. The punishment imposed by the EFA was justified by the player’s signing of two contracts with two clubs at the same time. However, it is said that this punishment violates the EFA’s own regulations. Al-Ahly responded by announcing its withdrawal from the league and not playing in any tournament organised by the EFA, as well as refusing to recognise its latest decision to penalise its new player.
Looking back into the history of Egyptian football, one can see how the state, or the Ministry of Sports, dealt with numerous such cases. In February 2012, the EFA under Samir Zaher was unable to face the state and the inflamed Egyptian public opinion for the events of the Port Said Stadium massacre, which claimed the lives of 72 Al-Ahly fans. Following the incident, an emergency session was held at the parliament. The prime minister at the time, Kamal El-Ganzoury, announced the dismissal of Samir Zaher and his association, as well as their interrogation in those events. However, Samir Zaher rejected this decision and refused to leave, based on the laws and regulations of FIFA, which denies the state’s legitimacy in deciding upon matters of football.
There was news of Zaher’s intention to file a formal complaint to the International Federation of American Football (IFAF). Zaher withdrew at the last moment to announce his and his association’s official resignations due to these unfortunate events. When Anwar Saleh, the EFA’s executive director at the time, was commissioned to manage the association’s business following Zaher’s resignation, former minister of sports El-Amry Farouk interfered and appointed Essam Abdel Moneim as the head of a temporary commission for managing the association’s affairs until the elections. IFAF intervened, threatening to freeze football activity in Egypt, and Abdel Moneim resigned one week after he was appointed. The current association was formed later by elections led by Gamal Allam.
In March 2004, sharp criticism mounted over the EFA’s members, led by Major General Al-Dahshouri Harb, after the Egyptian team exited the African Cup of Nations qualifiers at the first round. The Egyptian team failed, under the leadership of Mohsen Saleh, to beat the weak Algerian team, followed by a tie with Cameroon’s team. Its difficult victory against Zimbabwe was not enough. To make matters worse, the Olympic team exited the qualifiers for the Athens Olympics after six straight defeats in Egypt and abroad.
Harb continued to reject the collective resignation, although many members resigned individually, one top of whom was the late Ibrahim Yousef after indirect pressure from then-minister of youth Ali Eddin Hilal, by sending committees for financial and administrative inspections. Eventually, the head of the EFA gave in and announced a collective resignation. Essam Abdel Moneim succeeded Harb when the EFA was appointed by the Minister for the period of one year. The late Abdou Saleh El-Wahsh was assigned as a head of a temporary committee for two months to oversee the elections upon FIFA’s instructions.
This was not the first time El-Wahsh took charge of a temporary administrative committee. He was assigned the same position five years earlier, in 2000, to oversee the association elections to succeed the appointed association headed by Harb, who was appointed in August 1999 for one year by Kamal El-Ganzoury, prime minister and president of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports at the time. This decision was issued following the national team scandal after being defeated in the 1999 Confederations Cup 5-0 against the Saudi national team. El-Ganzoury dissolved the EFA, headed by Samir Zaher, as a result of the disastrous incident.
In the wake of the threat of Al-Zamalek’s Board of Directors to withdraw from the Premier League championship in 1996, after the club’s infamous game against Al-Ahli, in which Al-Zamalek lost 2-0. Al-Zamalek objected to the decision taken by referee Kadry Abdel-Azeem to approve Al-Ahli’s second goal. The white team refused to continue the game. Abdel Moneim Omara, head of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports, dissolved the Al-Zamalek club management board, as well as the elected EFA headed by Harb. Omara appointed an interim committee to run the affairs of the association for a year under the chairmanship of the late Mohamed Al-Sayaji.
In 1991, Omara was in the same position, which enabled him to dissolve the elected EFA, headed by Mohamed Ahmed, and appointed Saleh Hasaballah, who was a member of the dissolved association. This was following the failure of the Olympic team in the African Games, which were held in Egypt that year. Omara also ordered the return of the late Mahmoud El-Gohary to his leadership of the Egyptian team, as well as the oversight of the Olympic team in light of the public dissatisfaction among Egyptians as a result of the decline of the national team’s level and its results. One year later, in October 1992, Omara appointed a board of directors headed by Harb for one year.
In May of 1988, Abdel Ahad Gamal El-Din, head of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports, decided to dissolve the elected football association headed by Hassan Abdoun, after a conflict erupted between Al-Ahly and Mahalla. That conflict emerged when Al-Ahly protested the referee, Ibrahim Al Nady, who changed his decision to give a penalty to the red team and reversed it to an offside for Hossam Hassan, who played for Al-Ahly at the time. The crisis escalated and Al-Ahly withdrew from the game, and the late Salah Selim resigned, especially after the Supreme Council’s decision to postpone the match between Al-Ahly and Tersana SC. The delay was rejected by the EFA’s chairman, Abdoun, who challenged Gamal El-Din’s decision. Gamal El-Din then dissolved the whole association and put the league on hold pending the end of this problem. Brigadier General Ibrahim Jouini, was appointed to head the EFA at that time.
Also in 1981, the EFA was dissolved after the defeat of the Egyptian national team against its Moroccan counterpart in the 1982 World Cup qualifiers, although it qualified to the third and final round after Ghana’s withdrawal, followed by Libya’s. Egypt lost to Morocco abroad 1-0, while the game in Egypt ended in goalless draw. Sports media at that time had been campaigning against the unprofessional management style of Egyptian sports in general, and especially football. News about apathy and neglect in Egyptian football was widespread.
Moreover, in 1978, for similar reasons, Abdel Aziz Shafie, head of the Sports Authority, dissolved the elected association, headed by Mohamed Ahmed, and appointed a temporary committee, led by Mohamed Hassan Helmy, after the humiliating exiting of the Egyptian team, having lost against its Tunisian rivals 4-1 in the 1978 World Cup qualifiers. The defeat was followed by the EFA announcing they will not be participating in the third African Games in Algeria, although the date had been set and Egypt had qualified. This caused a crisis at the time that pushed Shafie to dissolve the association. However, Mohamed Ahmed returned to complete his term after a decision from the Administrative Court of the State Council.
In 1955, another major crisis occurred, resulting in Al-Ahly’s declaration of withdrawal from the Premier League championship, after its game against the Alexandria Tram club, which also withdrew protesting the EFA’s decisions. The association threatened Al-Ahly club with demotion to the second division if it followed through with its threat of withdrawal. However, the EFA was dissolved, and the league was cancelled, preventing Al-Ahly from withdrawing.
History probably carries many significant crises, which always faced firm decisions, especially in dealing with sports, and football in particular. With successive defeats in sports and an unclear regulative and administrative vision in such an important institution, the question that arises now is: who is responsible for all of those current failures? If the current Football Association has proven ineffective in leading the Egyptian national teams to the World Cup, and has failed to organise a local league and a cup in a timely manner and in the presence of fans, who is to hold the EFA accountable?