The Pharaohs’ coach Héctor Cúper warned the national team against speaking to the media before their first match against Mali in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) on Tuesday. Afcon is being held in Gabon from 14 January to 5 February.
Cúper called on the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) board member Hazem El-Hawary to keep the media away from players at the team’s residence, so as to preserve the team’s focus on the competition. Cúper said that the coaching staff and players would be allowed to speak to the media during the press conference prior to every game.
Daily News Egypt learned that the Egyptian media mission was outraged due to Cúper’s actions. Cúper had also refused to allow the media mission to travel on board the private aeroplane carrying the national team to Gabon, before Hany Abo Rida, president of Egyptian Football Association, urged Cúper to allow them to accompany the national team on the aeroplane.
The Pharaohs started on Saturday morning with a light training session to avoid strains, as the team’s trip lasted six hours. The coaching staff is also trying to get players used to the high humidity and rain which has buffeted the city over the past two days.
The Pharaohs arrived in Gabon Friday night and moved directly to the hotel, amid tight security measures.
The coaching staff has determined the team’s plan against Mali on Tuesday, in the first round of Group D, after watching several of their games.
The coaching staff had first refused to announce the Egyptian final squad of 18 players who will play the first match, in order to raise the morale of the players and increase competition and enthusiasm during the training.
However, Argentine Cúper later announced the final squad against Mali on Tuesday. Goalkeeper would be Essam El-Hadary (Wadi Degla), while the defenders will be Mohamed Abdelshafi (Al-Ahly Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), Ahmed Fathi (Al-Ahly), Ali Gabr (Zamalek), Ahmed Hegazy, and Saad Samir (both Al-Ahly). The midfielders will be Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal, England), Abdallah El Said (Al-Ahly), Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan (Royal Mouscron-Peruwelz, Belgium), and Tarek Hamed (Zamalek), while the forwards will be Marwan Mohsen (Al-Ahly), and Mohamed Salah (AS Roma, Italy).
Cúper selected El-Hadary for his long international experience and his brilliant performance in the last two games against Ghana and Congo, regardless of the player’s performance with his club. Cúper still has to choose between Ahmed Hegazy and Saad Samir during the team’s last training session to be a part of the team’s starting lineup.
The Egyptian players agreed to read Qur’an together at the team’s residence, which is the most prominent tradition made by the Egyptian players during the African championships. Defender Ahmed Fathi (Al-Ahly), who participated in Afcon in 2006, 2008, and 2010, was the originator of that idea. Goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy would lead the team in prayers during the competition.
The medical staff led by Mohamed Abou El-Ela warned the players against eating any food from the hotel without consulting the medical staff. He also called on them to abide by the medical instructions in terms of the heat and humidity rates inside their rooms, to avoid flying insects.