The coronavirus (Covid-19) that has swept across the globe in the last few weeks and months has not only had a significant impact on public health, society, and the economy as a whole, it has also paralysed the sporting events everywhere. In Egypt, the gains and losses varied after all sports events were put on hold.
There are many winners and losers in Egyptian sports, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the postponement of this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo to 2021, due to the coronavirus outbreak. Perhaps the most prominent loser in this decision is Egypt’s Olympic football team, while the suspended weightlifting team is the postponement’s top beneficiary.
The Olympic football team, led by Shawky Gharib, were the top losers from the Olympics’ postponement, as the young pharaohs had prepared well for the event. The technical staff had named the three above-age players who will be supporting the team in Tokyo, including Al Ahly’s goalkeeper Mohamed El Shennawy, Zamalek’s Tarek Hamed, and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
The event’s postponement, however, will be a major blow especially as this generation has great potential, in addition to homogeneity.
Al Ahly are the club most affected by the halt of sports activities, especially if the stoppages lasted for a long time as it will be difficult to complete this season’s league. This would deprive Al Ahly of the title, even though the team is at the top of the table, with 49 points.
Al Ahly will also be badly affected by the postponement of the CAF Champions League, as the team was showing a strong, steady performance. They had managed to beat the South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-finals of the tournament. The Cairo giant did not also benefit from his star Ramadan Sobhi loaned from English team Huddersfield.
Zamalek’s loss in football, basketball, and handball
Zamalek have also been affected by the cessation of sporting activities, especially after the White Knights were only two steps away from winning the CAF Champions League title after an 18-year absence.
Zamalek were also expected to participate in the African Basketball Championship, held for the first time under the auspices of the NBA, as the league champion last season. The championship was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, despite Zamalek’s readiness to participate. The hiatus also applies to the handball team, which was scheduled to play Tunisian Étoile Sportive du Sahel at the African Handball Super Cup in Algeria on 31 March.
Ismaily and the search for the Arab title
Things are no different at the Al-Darawish Castle, especially as Ismaily were close to qualifying for the Mohammed VI Cup Final in the Arab Champions League. Their upcoming match, to which they had already travelled, was to be the second-leg semi-final match against Moroccan side, Raga. The match was, however, postponed due to the pandemic.
Pyramids FC were also affected by the decision to stop sports in light of its strong play at the CAF Confederation Cup. The Egyptian side had qualified for the tournament’s semi-finals and looked strong to win its first title. They have been leading the first group with 15 points from five wins and one loss, scoring 14 goals, and conceding only three. Pyramids player, Abdullah Al-Saeed, also faces sad times, given that he occupies the Premier League’s top scorer position with 13 goals this season. If the league resumes, it will be his first time winning the top scorer’s award.
Al Ahly Mohamed Mahmoud dreams of recovery
Al Ahly midfielder, Mohamed Mahmoud, is one of the winners to come out of the decision to postpone and cancel football in Egypt. This is in light of his current injury that will take him some time to regain his fitness and level of play, which could see him join the Olympic team’s squad. The same goes for other players, including Karim Nedved, Taher Mohamed Taher, Saad Samir, and Mahmoud Abdel Aziz (Zizou).
The wrestling team restructures
The wrestling team is another beneficiary of the Olympic postponement, since Mohamed Ibrahim Kisho is the only Egyptian wrestler to secure qualification to the Tokyo Games. The postponement offers a great opportunity for several other players on the team, such as Abdel Latif Manea, to qualify as well, especially as there is a great opportunity for a number of them to win medals.
Weightlifting team renews hopes
The weightlifting team’s hopes to participate as the upcoming Olympic Games were renewed after the postponement decision. The team was given a two year suspension last September following evidence of doping amongst team members.
The games’ postponement has also given renewed hopes to Egyptian national weightlifter and Olympic champion, Mohamed Ehab. He had decided to retire due to the difficulty of being in Tokyo, but the postponement has given him renewed hopes to attend the Olympics for a second time. Ehab won bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The Egyptian Olympic Committee had high hopes for Ehab to win a medal in this session, as well as the world quartet champion Sarah Samir.
Sports officials hope to retain positions
The year of the Olympics isn’t just about sports, however – it is also the year of elections, with union presidents and members linked to the Olympic Games vying for votes to remain in position. This year, however, they will remain in their positions for another year without elections, which gives them a great opportunity to prepare their electoral plans.
The javelin thrower champion returns
Egyptian javelin thrower, Ehab Abdul Rahman, also benefits from the postponement of the Olympic Games. Abdul Rahman had needed to regain his fitness after the lifting of his suspension following a failed doping test. The player was preparing to run in qualifier tournaments for the Olympics, just before the sports activities were suspended. He participated in a closed camp in South Africa at the expense of his sponsoring company, before he took part in another camp inside the Cairo Stadium.
His hopes of obtaining an Olympic medal in Tokyo were renewed after he had lost the hope of participating in the next Games.
Relegation clubs await news on league
More than 10 clubs facing relegation this season are eagerly awaiting news on whether this year’s league will be cancelled. Although they will lose out financially from the league’s cancellation, due to the salaries and contracts of the players, they also do not wish to move down.
Tanta, Wadi Degla, Talea El Geish, Al-Masry, Aswan, Misr Makasa, Gouna, and Egypt Club are amongst the teams awaiting news.
A number of officials from these clubs alluded to their desire to cancel the league entirely since the resumption of the competition would require an extended period for the teams to be prepare again.
El-Badry and the national team
Hossam El-Badry, head coach of Egypt’s national football team, is considered the most prominent winner in the coming period from all sporting activities coming to a halt. This is particularly in light of the African Nations Championship 2021 qualifiers being postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Pharaohs’ position is currently difficult after their failure to win their first two games, instead drawing with Kenya, and tying with the Comoros.
El-Badry, who assumed the task of leading the team in September 2019 after the dismissal of Javier Aguirre, was unable to make his mark with the Pharaohs. With the team making only modest appearances in their first two confrontations, some were demanding for him to leave. However, the postponement of the encounter with Togo in the third and fourth qualifier rounds assures El-Badry’s future with the Pharaohs, at least for the moment.