This year has been a miserable one for Egyptian football, particularly since all domestic competitions were cancelled following the Port Said disaster on 1 February. The frustration appears to have spread to the country's top stars with a recent spate of bust ups at Zamalek and Ahly.
Just this week, Zamalek's Ahmed "Mido" Hossam and Mahmoud "Shikabala" Abdel-Razek clashed with their coach Hassan Shehata, whilst Ahly captain Hossam Ghaly quarrelled with coach Manuel Jose.
Both Mido and Shikabala face the axe at the White Castles, with the former regarded as a persistent troublemaker and the latter being suspended due to a pitch-side fight with Shehata.
Red Devils captain Ghaly won't play for the club next season if Jose remains in charge. The Ghaly-Jose row occurred two weeks ago when the veteran midfielder disobeyed the coach’s instructions during a training session.
The trio are major stars in Egyptian football but have never been far from trouble during their careers.
Early success goes to Mido's head
Mido and Shehata in 2006
Early success and a long career at some of Europe's top clubs have sometimes gone to Mido's head and made him think he is the biggest Egyptian football star.
The former Ajax, Tottenham, Middlesbrough and AS Roma hitman began his career with the White Castles before travelling abroad to play in Europe.
Mido was involved in an infamous touchline row with Shehata, who was in charge of Egypt's national team at the time, during a 2006 African Cup of Nations (CAN) match on home soil after he was substituted during the semi-final win over Senegal.
He missed the final against Ivory Coast as a result and was handed a six-month ban from the national team.
The feud resurfaced four years later when Shehata named Mido in Egypt’s preliminary squad for the 2010 Nations Cup, only to exclude him from the final roster due to his fitness problems.
Mido heavily criticized Shehata and said he would never play for the Pharaohs again under his management.
In 2011, European football no longer appealed to the 29-year-old and he rejoined his boyhood club Zamalek on a three-and-half-year contract.
Despite early assurances that he was no longer in dispute with Shehata, the prolific striker made few appearances for the club (playing only four games) whether due to fitness and weight issues or his financial conflict with the club.
‘’There is no problem with Shehata now. I told him in a phone call today that I’m a professional player who is well aware of his rights and responsibilities,” Mido said in a television interview in July 2011 after Shehata's appointment.
Recent reports claimed that Shehata is fed up with the troublesome Mido and would get rid of him before the new season.
"We decided to release Mido due to his absence from training over the past days,'' a source at Zamalek said Tuesday.
Troublesome Shikabala and the missing special treatment
Despite being one of the undoubted stars of Egyptian football, Shikabala has been dogged by controversy throughout his career.
His colleagues at Zamalek have described him as a little kid, and his mentally instability has caused him problems with opposition fans, especially at rival Cairo club Ahly.
Ahly fans used to target the player during Cairo derbies, hurling a barrage of insults at him that often prompted heated exchanges.
After the Port Said disaster, Shikabala reportedly donated a large amount of money to the victims' families.
In a sign of reconciliation, Ultras Ahlawy, Ahly’s hardcore fans, created a Facebook page called “We are sorry Shika.”
“Despite the cruelty of what happened in Port Said, it helped unite the fans of all clubs. It might be a turning point in ending intolerance and hatred in Egyptian football," said Shikabala.
“The fans of Ahly are my brothers. I hope Ahly and Zamalek fans can sit together in the stands without barriers," he added.
The club's refusal to listen to offers for him from Greek and Belgian clubs caused a lot of friction
Shikabala has had problems with coaches at club and international level.
It was reported that he fought with twins Hossam and Ibrahim Hassan at the beginning of their stint with the White Castles two years ago, and he missed last season's training camp after a dispute with them. His relationship with the twins improved when he became the team's star player.
Hossam Hassan defended Shikabala after he angrily reacted to being substituted by Shehata during Sunday's clash with Maghreb Fez.
"Shikabala needs special treatment," Hossam told a TV programme.
Pitch-side television cameras caught the 26-year-old telling his boss, "I’m fed up with you; if you don’t want me then let me go."
"The management has suspended Shikabala until it receives the match report from the coach," revealed a statement on Zamalek's official website after the incident.
Shikabala was handed an additional punishment when he was barred from playing in Egypt's London Olympic team as a result of his outburst against Shehata.
"I am very angry with Shikabala as Shehata is like our father, but I want all parties to end the issue quickly," Zamalek skipper Abdel-Wahed El-Sayed said on Sunday.
Ghaly's English nightmare returns at Ahly
Hossam Ghaly rose through youth ranks at Ahly and joined the first team during Manuel Jose's first stint at the club in the early 2000s. He has since become an Ahly icon.
Joining Dutch club Feyenoord in 2003 and English Premier League giant Tottenham three years later, Ghaly's career in Europe had a perfect start until a notorious incident in 2007.
During a league match between Tottenham and Blackburn, he ripped off his jersey and threw it to the ground after being substituted by coach Martin Jol.
"I knew things weren't happening for me out there, my play was terrible and I could hear the crowd jeering me. I was so upset by the fans' reaction. I have enjoyed playing in front of the club's supporters all season and I felt I had given my best and played some decent football. It is always hard to accept being substituted after such a short period of time and I was upset and taken aback by the jeering. I am a player who plays with my heart," Ghaly said after the incident.
"I know my reaction was totally wrong. I have apologised to the manager and I also want to apologise to the fans. I hope they don't judge me on this incident alone. I have tried hard for the club this season," he added.
Spurs supporters gave their own assessment, singing "you're not fit to wear the shirt."
"The fans are entitled to do that. Literally, it was out of character because he is a very good boy, he's always disciplined and every time he was involved he did well but you couldn't say he did well this time," Martin Jol said.
Ghali and Martin Jol.
The player, who is known for his versatility, ruined his career in Europe after gaining a reputation for misbehaviour.
Ghaly returned to Ahly in 2010 with a calmer attitude but he was not selected for the national team, possibly due to personal differences with the coaching staff.
Neglecting the fact that he is captain, Jose has sidelined Ghaly over the past two weeks amid rumours that he intends to strip him of the captaincy.
A few hours after Ghaly announced his dispute with Jose was over, the 30-year-old remained on the sidelines during Monday’s home clash with Stade Malien.
"I don't need him anymore and he won't play for us next season if I remain in charge," Jose told a sports programme on Tuesday.
"Personally, I like Ghaly. I don’t have any problems with him, but, technically, it isn't the same. We will announce our final decision in a couple of days," Jose said.
Jose's current contract expires this summer and it's not certain whether he will sign a new one or not, so Ghaly's future remains uncertain.
Football lovers across the country are waiting with bated breath to discover the destiny of these three Egyptian bad boys.
Ghali and Joseh
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