CAIRO – 15 December 2017: When Mohamed Salah scored a late goal against Congo in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the goal that took Egypt again to the World Cup, Egyptians went crazy and started an endless celebrations in every corner of our vast country.
They forgot for one night all their difficult circumstances and they woke up happy with smiles on their faces as football in Egypt has a great impact on its people and for us it is more than a game.
Football came to Egypt at the end of the 19th century through the English soldiers who introduced the game to Egyptians as they did for the rest of the World. Quickly, the game became a part of their lives.
Egyptians started to set up football clubs that helped to explore talented players who became national heroes and helped in the game spread in Egypt.
In this article we will follow the steps of these first men who made Egyptians fall in love with football.
Hossein Hegazi (third to the right from centre) with the Dulwich Hamlet team on a tour in Holland, at Easter 1912, Photo courtsey of Southwark News
He was one of the most talented players in Egyptian football history; he was the first to gain a great fame from being a footballer.
Hussein was born in one of Egypt’s local neighborhood, Al-Hussein in 1891 and he fought the English occupation in Egypt with a ball at his feet.
Hegazi was the first Egyptian to play in England where he represented Dulwich Hamlet and Fulham between 1911 and 1915.
Hegazi played for Egypt’s biggest two clubs, Al Ahly and Zamalek and he had his own fans that followed him wherever he played. Hegazi also represented the Egyptian national team at the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympic Games. A street in Cairo is named after Hegazi.
Mohamed Latif during his time at Rangers, Photo courtsey of sports 360
He is the most famous football commentator in Egypt, but before that he was a great footballer.
During Hussein Hegazi’s days at Zamalek, Latif was a young talented student at one of Egypt’s most famous high schools. Once Hegazi heard about Latif, he signed him to play for Zamalek.
Latif represented Zamalek most of his career as a footballer and he played for Glascow Rangers in Scotland.
Latif was in Egypt’s starting line-up for Egypt’s 2-4 loss against Hungary at 1934 World Cup, the first participation for Egyptian national team in the tournament.
Latif played a great role in increasing the popularity of the game in Egypt and the Arab countries as he was the main commentator on games for about four decades.
Mokhtar El Tetsh
Al Ahly's Mokhtar El Tetsh - Photo courtsey of Youm7
Like all the players in his generation, Mokhtar took his first steps in football at school. Mahmoud Mokhtar, born in 1905 at El-Sayeda Zeinab was one of the most promising talents at Al-Saaidiyah high school in Cairo. Al Ahly scouts signed him when he was just 17 and since then he became one of the most important figures in the history of the club.
Mahmoud Mokhtar got his nickname (Tetsh) from the Consuls-General in Egypt, Sir George Lloyd who was a big football fan and was impressed with Mokhtar’s talent.
El-Tetsh was Egypt’s greatest player during the 20s and he was a part of the national team preparing for 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Mokhtar’s father refused to allow him to travel with the team and miss his exams so the Egyptian Prime Minister at this time, Saad Zaghloul let him do his exams at Egypt embassy in Paris.
Mokhtar led the national team at three Olympic Games in 1924 in Paris, 1928 in Amsterdam and 1936 in Munich and he was chosen for the 1924 team of the tournament after he led Egypt to fourth place.
Mokhtar wore the Al Ahly shirt for 17 years and he played a great role after retirement inside the club. Al Ahly decided to name their stadium after him because of his contributions to the club.
Hassan El Shazly
Hassan El Shazly holds the ball before a game for El Tarsana - photo courtsey of youm7
It is not easy to put your name in the history of football in Egypt if you did not wear Al Ahly or Zamalek shirts, However El Shazly’s talent led his team, Tersana to compete with both giants for two decades.
Hassan El Shazly, born in 1943 in Rod El Farag in Cairo preferred to join Tersana over Al Ahly and Zamalek when he was 14 and he established himself the best player in the club’s history.
El Shazly wore Tersana’s blue shirt his whole career and he played a great role to establish a huge fan base for the club in Cairo.
El Shazly is the Egyptian League historic top scorer with 176 goals, including 34 goals in the 1974-1975 season when he was 33.
El Shazly formed a famous partnership with his teammate, Mostafa Riyad that destroyed other teams’ defense and crowned Tersana Egyptian League Champions in 1963.
El Shazly served Tersana as a coach several times and he was the first to give Mohamed Abo Trika the chance to play in Tersana’s first team.
Saleh Selim at Cairo stadium stands during a game for Al Ahly - photo courtsey of Sout El Omma
He is the first name comes to minds when you hear the Al Ahly name; the man who served the team as a player, director of football, board member and the club’s president. He is Saleh Selim.
Saleh, born in Dokki, Cairo in 1930 and joined Al Ahly in 1944 and he wore Al Ahly’s jersey from then till 1967.
Saleh led Al Ahly to dominate Egyptian League since its inception in 1948. Al Ahly won the first nine seasons of the League with Salah leading their attacking line.
Saleh also made great contributions with the national team as he won the 1959 African Cup of nations in Cairo and was among the national team squad at the 1960 Olympic Games in Roma.
Saleh is the only Egyptian player to score 7 goals in one game when Al Ahly defeated Ismaily 8-0 in 1958.
Filmmakers wanted to use Saleh’s fame so they convinced him to appear in three movies, “the seven girls”, “the black candles” and “the open door”. Saleh is considered the best athlete to make a great impact in Egyptian cinema.
Salah was Al Ahly president for two spells between 1980 to 1988 and 1992 to 2002. CAF chose Al Ahly as the African club of the century during his presidency and he received the award in 2001.
There are many more names that succeeded these pioneers and had a great impact on the game. However these great men deserve the greatest credit for paving the way for others to follow.