Back in the Egyptian Premier League as a coach for the fourth time, former Egypt striker Ahmed Hossam 'Mido' says he eyes a long stay at Wadi Degla and reiterated his desire to embark on a managerial career in Europe, where he enjoyed a long playing career.
The former Ajax, Marseille, Roma, and Tottenham had two stints in charge of Cairo giants Zamalek, his boyhood club. He led them to the Egypt Cup title in 2014.
Mido also had a brief spell in charge of Ismaily last year, where he seemed on course to build an exciting side, but departed after a few months to take over at Zamalek again.
Having been sacked following a Cairo derby defeat by arch rivals Ahly, Mido was appointed as the new boss of Degla last month, expressing his hope that the club's ambitious project would eventually pay dividends.
Ahram Online interviewed the 33-year old, who spoke about his latest mission, challenges, targets, future plans and more.
AO: What are your reasons for accepting Wadi Degla’s offer and returning to work again in Egypt after your short stint as a consultant for Belgian side Lierse?
Wadi Degla is attractive for anyone. They have forged a good reputation in recent years because of many things such as the way they deal with their employees, paying them on time as well as their future development plans.
The other thing that tempted me to accept their offer is that I need to continue working as a coach in order to resume my European studies. I took both C and B coaching licenses and I'm now working on acquiring UEFA’s A License that requires the applicant to be committed to a club.
For me, Wadi Degla was the best option and I'm happy with my decision.
AO: How do you rate your previous stints as a coach of Zamalek and Ismaily, and what is your preliminary assessment of Wadi Degla’s experience?
My first stint with Zamalek in 2014 was very successful. We managed to introduce a new generation and build a fresh team that still collects titles. We also won the Egypt Cup in a difficult time
With Ismaily, I formed their strongest team in the last 15 years and it's very difficult for them to repeat that in the coming years. Some circumstances didn’t allow me to continue there but I managed to build a new team that was respected by all opponents.
As for Wadi Degla, I can only say that I'm happy to be here.
AO: Do you consider coaching a high-profile club like Zamalek a difficult mission, especially under the usual fan pressure?
Coaching Zamalek is a pleasure. Some people can't deal with pressure but for me it is a pleasure.
AO: In the first two matches under your guidance, Wadi Degla drew 1-1 Smouha before beating Enppi 4-3 in the Egyptian league. Does the win reflect a quick adaption from the players to your strategy?
I would like to thank my players for understanding my strategy quickly and for their determination to deliver and get their team back on track
Thanks God, we managed to prove in those two matches that Wadi Degla is a big team despite that fact that there are still some aspects that we need to improve.
Results are not important for me now until the coming international break in January. What matters most now is making sure the players adapt to my strategy. It’s also important to depend on youth players in the coming period.
AO: You said after the ENNPI victory that Wadi Degla are playing with a unique style which doesn’t exist in the Egyptian league, what do you mean?
I can't explain the technical aspects of our playing style but I can confirm that it is unique (defensively and offensively). It's deployed in Egypt for the first time.
AO: What are the positives you have seen at Wadi Degla and what do you expect from them in the Egyptian league?
We have many youth and coming players who have a potential to improve and this is very important. We also boast other experienced players such as veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary. There are many good things here but we don’t have definite targets. We only want to display good football and remain in the middle of the league table.
AO: Do you consider being away from the pressure of fans at a financially-stable club like Wadi Degla a key factor for success?
Everything has its own advantage. Working in clubs with a large fan base has its passion. Targets, pressure and working styles are different at Wadi Degla.
I love working under pressure and the presence of fans and working at popular clubs add a lot to the experience of any coach.
AO: Is being a young coach and guiding elder players can be an obstacle for Mido?
Thank God, my character and experience qualify me to lead any team. Age isn’t an indicator as you can find a 60-year old coach whose character does not help him take charge of a big team.
(Photos: Menna Alaa)
AO: You worked as a coach and as a football analyst. Which job suited you more and did you benefit from analyzing matches?
I'm a coach and this is my identity. I work as an analyst when I don't work as a coach. Analyzing games help me gain big experiences; you discuss and hear other people who speak in football, you closely follow the top-level football leagues, coaches' statements, different tactics and how coaches deal with media and players. As a coach you learn from all those things.
AO: How do you see competition in the Egyptian league this season especially with the presence of strong opponents like Maqassa and Smouha?
The rivalry will be between Zamalek and Ahly. There could be other competitors but at the end those clubs are the ones who will compete for the title.
AO: You made a big name through playing for different clubs in Europe. What's your take on the recent increase of the number of foreign-based Egyptian footballers?
It's not actually an increase. When I joined the national team for the first time in 2000 we had 17 players playing their trade outside Egypt with some good clubs so I believe things have deteriorated with this regard. It's difficult now to tempt clubs into selling their best players.
Egyptian clubs must allow young players to leave if they receive good offers and they will benefit financially, like what happened with Arab Contractors when they sold Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Elneny to Basel. They got 25% of the duo’s following transfer.
Egyptian clubs should change their way of thinking and there is always good players. Even if you lose one of your stars, you can cover for him quickly and the money you get from transfers help you do that.
The recent success of the current group of foreign-based players is mainly because they are very committed and firmly focusing on football. They act in a professional manner and this is very important.
AO: Stability is important for any coach to prove his worth. Do you intend to remain with Wadi Degla for a long time, unlike your previous spells, even if you receive an offer from a high profile club?
I want to stay with Wadi Degla for two and a half years at least.
AO: You said before that you will work in Europe. Do you have definite plans for that?
I will surely do this. My dream is to coach in the top level and that needs certain steps. The first step is studying and I already acquired the C and B licenses and will get the A license in May. I will then take the Uefa Pro license (the highest coaching certification) while I'm working.
My dream is to start my coaching career in Europe within the next five years. It doesn't really matter where I start, but I hope to begin in either Belgium or France.
AO: Egypt have been getting some good results recently but coach Hector Cuper is always criticised over the team's performances, do you think this criticism is harsh or justified?
Cuper is the key behind Egypt's recent success. He is a famed coach and those who aren't satisfied with Egypt's displays are biased against the technical staff. Cuper led Egypt to a place at the African Cup of Nations after a long absence and we are also on path to reach the World Cup.
Those who criticise Egypt's displays simply want him to leave.
AO: Do you think Egypt's current generation will be able to compete for the African Cup of Nations title?
It is not important. I believe the priority is giving the players more experience so that they can successfully fulfill the main objective, which is reaching the World Cup.
AO: Zamalek's Basem Morsi is the only prominent striker in Egypt's squad. What are the reasons for the lack of reliable frontmen in the country?
It may be just a transitional period like what happened in the mid 1990s when Hossam Hassan was the only good striker available.
There are other strikers in Egypt such as Ahly's Marawan Mohsen who will be a great addition when he regains his full fitness.
Ahly's Emad Meteb is a veteran player and he needs a chance to play on a regular basis to silence critics. My advice for him is that he should exert more effort in training and never give up.
(Sporting Braga striker) Ahmed Kouka needs to be physically stronger while (Ahly's) Amr Gamal wasn't lucky enough with the recent injuries he sustained and I hope he returns to top form soon.
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