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Monday, 09 December 2019

Preview: Refereeing controversy engulfs Egyptian league

Hatem Maher , Wednesday 7 Dec 2016
Ahly 1-0 Maqassa
Ahly beat Maqassa 1-0 on Sunday with a dubious first-half penalty (Photo: Ahram)
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Zamalek threatened to quit the Egyptian Premier League over and over again but eventually backtracked as they always do, before visiting Aswan on Thursday as refereeing controversy clouds the 14th round of the premier domestic competition.

Firebrand chairman Mortada Mansour, known for his fiery remarks, launched another scathing attack on the Egyptian Football Association after Ahly, Zamalek's arch rivals, were awarded a dubious penalty against Maqassa last Sunday.

Abdallah El-Said converted the spot kick that was awarded for an apparent handball on Maqassa's full-back Mahmoud Wahid and it was enough to give leaders and defending champions Ahly a narrow 1-0 win.

In a dramatic finale to the match, Maqassa's playmaker Ahmed El-Sheikh, who is on loan from Ahly, had another penalty saved by the keeper of his parent club, to further enrage Mansour who went as far as accusing the player of deliberately wasting his effort.

Mansour initially insisted Zamalek would withdraw from the league unless the match's referee Ibrahim Nour El-Deen was suspended and the EFA's refereeing chief Reda El-Beltagi dismissed.

Such threats have become a matter for ridicule on social media for not being serious enough and Zamalek failed to change course this time around, saying they had reversed their decision after Mansour sat down with Egyptian FA chairman Hani Abou-Reida.

"Our demands are clear. El-Beltagi is weak and he should leave, while Ibrahim Nour El-Deen should be banned for life," said Mansour, an outspoken lawyer who is constantly embroiled in tug-of-wars with his numerous adversaries, before eventually back-pedaling on his withdrawal threat. 

"The EFA is provoking us by giving El-Beltagi a vote of confidence.  We are ready to travel to Aswan but only if the matter is resolved."

Ahly are 14 points clear of Zamalek but the latter have four matches in hand. They will close to within two points of their perennial rivals if they win the rescheduled games.

Zamalek will be eyeing their second consecutive win under Mohamed Helmi, their third manager so far this season, when they take on lowly Aswan who lie second from bottom in the table with six points from 13 games.

Ahly will be looking to make it seven straight victories as they face a stern test against 2014 runners-up Smouha, who are third in the table, nine points behind the Red Devils.

Thursday's encounter is the second in a difficult run-in for Egypt's most successful outfit, who are eyeing an 11th league triumph in 10 seasons, before a lengthy league stoppage as Egypt participate at next year's African Cup of Nations.

They will also face ENPPI, Hossam Hassan's Masry and Zamalek in almost three weeks before the break. 

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports)

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