Hany Abo Rida was born in 1953 in Port Said. He used to play football for Al-Masry SC until he was seriously injured and retired early. Abo Rida graduated with a degree in engineering. During the 1980s, he took over the football management of Port Said city. In 1991, Abo Rida joined the Egyptian Football Association (EFA). He was elected for three sessions as its treasurer until 2003.
In 2004, Abo Rida joined the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). He showed great capability in the African arena and eventually headed the marketing committee of CAF. The general assembly of the CAF reelected Abo Rida as a member of its executive committee until 2011.
In 2009, he was elected as a member of FIFA’s executive committee (currently known as FIFA Council) and supervised some FIFA sporting events, including the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco. In 2016, Abo Rida became the president of the EFA, receiving the largest share of votes in the EFA election. Under the leadership of Abo Rida, Egypt qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after a 28-year absence.
Daily News Egypt sat down with Abo Rida for an interview, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity.
Can you tell us about your childhood and football career?
I grew up in an affluent family residing in Port Said. I am the youngest of my seven brothers and one daughter. I played football for Al-Masry and Zamalek for a short time until the six-day war.
How did you start your management career and join the EFA?
I opened my own business when I was young, and then I was enrolled in military service in 1975, when I met Ghazl El Mahalla’s star Mohamed Al-Sayaghi. Then, I met Mahmoud Al-Gohary and a strong friendship formed between us. After the 1990 World Cup, I was asked to join the EFA’s management council of the Suez Canal and Port Said region. Afterwards, I joined the EFA Competition Committee under the leadership of Harb Al-Dahshoury, Samir Zaher, and Hamada Emam. I was elected as EFA member and treasurer under Al-Dahshouri, and then vice president of EFA under Zaher. I am now the president of the EFA. I advise everyone who aims to take over major positions to gradually proceed in public work to increase their experience. There are many things that bothered me about Egyptian football and I hope to change them during my term in office.
What are these things?
The Egyptian national team used to stay at the EFA’s headquarters during its training sessions, but now they can stay in hotels or accommodations dedicated to housing the team during such periods. The stadiums which hosted the team’s training sessions were also poor and not appropriate for that purpose. Therefore, the EFA began to develop stadiums and the infrastructure of sports centres in coordination with concerned state institutions.
Do you intend to run for the CAF presidency?
It all depends on my health status when the election is held in 2021. I love to succeed wherever I go, but when it comes to my duty to represent Egypt, everything can be considered.
When can Egypt host the Africa Cup of Nations again?
Egypt is always ready to host the Africa Cup of Nations. The next championship will be held in Cameroon in 2019, the 2021 edition will be in Cote d’Ivoire and the 2023 edition in Guinea, so we can compete to win the hosting of the 2025 edition.
You supervised several of Egypt’s national teams over the years, what was that like?
I think I succeeded in this mission and I am happy to make achievements with Egypt’s various football generations that have influenced the local sport. The 1973 and 1975 generations were the best because there were unique talents among the team, such as Hazem Imam, Abdel Sattar Sabry, and Mohamed Sabry.
Do you recall any special situations with these players?
I was the first one to nominate Mohamed Sabry to play in Zamalek under the late coach Mahmoud El-Gohary. I once met Gohary in the street and asked him to give a chance for a young talent to play for Zamalek in its match against Al Ahly. Sabry presented a great performance and scored against Al Ahly. In the national team, I used to receive and deliver Sabry by myself to Ahmed Mostafa, the coach of the youth team at the time, to ensure his participation in the training camp, especially since Sabry lacked discipline. I think he could have been a great player, if he had developed himself.
Who was the best player in this period?
Imam, Sabry, Mu’tamad Gamal, and Osamah Nabih who unfortunately suffered serious injuries in a few years and played in other positions rather than his favourite one. Gamal was also a brilliant player. The former Dutch coach of the national team Ruud Krul once said that Gamal was the best sweeper he ever coached in his career.
Who are the best Egyptian players from your point of view?
Hassan Shehata and Abdel Karim Al Gohary were the greatest players in Egypt, they were underrated because of the lack of powerful media in the past.
How far do you think Egypt can go in the next World Cup?
It will be normal if Egypt could not go beyond the group stage, but I wish we can reach the Round of 16. Our team will clash with Uruguay, which has the best attackers in the world, such as Suarez of Barcelona and Cavani of Paris Saint Germain, the host Russia and Saudi Arabia, which will put huge pressure on both teams.
How do you see Cuper?
I am satisfied with what he has done so far with the team. The final results are the most important thing, and he achieved good results within the available possibilities.
What do you mean by “available possibilities”?
Cuper took over the team’s management in a difficult period after the retirement of great and experienced players. Most of those who played under him lacked international experience. Moreover, he lacked good alternative players in many positions. Portugal won the UEFA European Championship through Cuper’s defensive techniques and it did not present an outstanding football performance.
Will the EFA extend Cuper’s contract after the World Cup?
I will sit with him during the May and June training camps before the World Cup. Personally, I welcome this step and so does he, and that is the best for all.
What will happen if Cuper does not extend his contract with the team?
If Cuper refuses to extend his contract, I think the alternative coach will be a foreigner.
What about the Egyptian coaches who were once nominated to lead the team?
There are many Egyptian football coaches, such as Hossam Al Badri, Hossam Hassan, and Hassan Shehata, but I prefer to contract with a foreign coach.
Do you recall any special situations for the national team under Shehata?
Actually, the former general coach of the team Shawki Gharib was the main reason behind the nomination of Shehata to lead the team in 2004/2005. I once met Gharib and he recommended Shehata for the position, but the former head of the EFA, Abdo Saleh Al Wahsh, opposed the idea at the beginning. Eventually, he was persuaded to give the opportunity to an Egyptian coach and Shehata was assigned to lead the national team with Gharib as general coach. I always tell Shehata and Ghraib: “your luck is linked to each other.” After their departure, they did not achieve much with different clubs.
Which is the best football generation?
I think the 2006 football generation was the best. It included many special players in all positions unlike the current team, which lacks good alternatives. Drogba once said if I have Mohammed Aboutrika, Wael Gomaa, and Essam El Hadary on my team, I can reach the World Cup final match.
How do you see El Hadary?
He is an extraordinary and legendary player. He was the third goalkeeper of the team during the African Cup of Nations and became the first goalkeeper.
Many describe the national team as “Salah’s team”. What do you think of that?
When Mohamed Salah misses with the Liverpool squad, the team is affected badly, despite there being many stars in the English team. If anyone calls the national team “Salah’s team”, then we can call Argentina Messi’s team, Portugal Ronaldo’s team, and so on.
What do you think of Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup?
It was a political fight between the United States and Russia after the latter won the right to host the World Cup in 2018. There were many suspicious things which came to the surface after the arrest of some FIFA members.
What about the 2026 World Cup?
There is competition between Morocco and the US, Mexico, and Canada. Egypt will vote for Morocco as an Arab participant.
What do you think of Egypt’s failure to host the 2010 World Cup?
We gave more attention to the promotion of the event on the Egyptian streets rather than the outside world, so we got no votes.
Finally, would you like to say something to Egyptians?
I hope Egyptian fans deal elegantly with football in the coming years to maintain pace with the world football, especially because football fans will be allowed to attend matches in stadiums starting from the next season. I also hope that Egypt can achieve honourable results in the 2018 World Cup.