Earlier this week, a flurry of reports suggested Egypt’s former football international Mohamed Abu Treika would return to Cairo within a couple of days.
The former Ahly midfielder had taken the decision after Egypt’s prosecution recommended, for the third time, that there was no legal justification to consider Abu Treika a terrorist or to continue a freeze on his money and assets.
The news of Abu Treika’s anticipated homecoming made headlines and was the main topic in TV talk shows as well as creating a frenzy on social media, with those celebrating his return and others opposing.
Two days later, other reports claimed that Abu Treika had had second thoughts and was considering not returning, at least for the time being.
In 2014, an Egyptian criminal court added the retired footballer to a terrorist list for alleged links to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
And in 2015, a government committee froze the assets of the former player.
Authorities accused him of funding the Muslim Brotherhood which the state designated a terrorist organisation in late 2013. The freeze was overturned by a court order in June 2016.
Abu Treika’s lawyer Mohamed Osman had then described the criminal court decision as “illegal” because his client “has not been convicted” in any criminal case, which is a precondition for placement on terrorist lists.
They have appealed twice but each time the administrative court objected to the ruling. The player’s assets have thus remained frozen despite having been lifted by a court ruling.
According to a close friend of the footballer, Abu Treika will be back, but not now. “He’ll wait until the final verdict is announced on 18 April. And this time he is very optimistic about the verdict,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“The prosecution twice issued the same recommendation but each time, as soon as the verdict was announced, the administrative court would appeal. But this is the third time and the last. There can be no more appeals,” he added.
The former top class Ahly and Egypt midfielder had officially retired in December 2013 after participating with Ahly in the FIFA Club World Cup, ending an exceptional career that etched his name among the country’s all-time greats.
He was dubbed The Smiling Assassin, The Magician and The Saint during his playing days with Tersana, Ahly and Beni Yaas of the UAE.
In January 2017 the 2012 African Player of the Year Based in Africa was attending the FIFA Congress as part of FIFA’s Legendary Players when his name was included among a 1,500-name terrorist list, including top Brotherhood leaders convicted of violent crimes.
These included Islamist ex-president Mohamed Morsi; organisation chief Mohamed Badie; owner of the Juhayna dairy company, businessman Safwan Thabet; chairman of the Islamist Wasat Party Abul-Ela Madi and his deputy, among others.
Under the country’s anti-terrorism law, any person placed on a terrorist list is subject to a travel ban and faces having their passports and assets frozen.
A month later, Abu Treika’s father passed away in Cairo while he was in Doha, Qatar. “It was impossible for him to return,” Abu Treika’s friend said.
“He feared facing arrest and being detained at the airport. With his money and assets frozen, he had no income at all. He depended on his work with [sports channel] beIN in Qatar. So, he stayed there and missed his father’s burial and continued filing appeals from there,” he added.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry Spokesman Tarek Atteya had then told local media that the player could have come to his father’s funeral because the ministry had no orders to detain Abu Treika upon arrival in Egypt. “If he had returned to Egypt, he would have been allowed to enter the country like any other Egyptian citizen,” Atteya had said.
However, according to his close friend, Abu Treika feared being placed under a travel ban if he had returned to Egypt. “Now, he is looking to the final ruling on 18 April for his comeback.”
He revealed that the player’s contract with the Qatari channel expired at the beginning of April.
“They have already offered to renew his contract and are currently in negotiations for the World Cup in June. At the same time, he has received other offers from TV channels in Egypt ever since it was reported he was returning. But, he is waiting for the verdict to decide his plans for the future,” the friend added.
*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly