Back in charge for a third stint at Ahly, Coach Hossam El-Badry had the perfect start of the season realizing 5 straight wins. In this interview with Ahram Online he speaks about his ambitions, challenges and his hope of receiving more fan support.
Ahly have had the best start of the season since 2004/2005, winning five straight games. How do you evaluate your team’s performance until now?
Achieving the full mark until now was a very important thing, especially considering that our primary target is to defend our league title. However there is still work to do as a coach and areas where the team can improve. I would like to thank my players for the victories, especially as I was appointed just before the start of the league. We didn’t have enough time to prepare for the new season and or long enough to train together in camps.
We will be working hard to win the coming matches before the international break next month.
What are the areas you want to improve upon in the team?
There has been a change of circumstances and I need to handle it. Last season, the squad had more efficient options like Malick Evouna and Ramadan Sobhi, but this year is different after their departure (the two transferred to Tianjin Teda of China and Stoke City of England respectively). These are serious changes and we are working on finding new replacements and other game solutions.
What is your preferred playing style for Ahly this season?
I always prefer ball possession, fast movements and balancing between defence and attack with all players in all positions. Previous coaches worked on that before but this is the football that I like and the strategy I am trying to apply, always seeking the best combination of players.
Ahly have been shy off goal since last season and even former coach Martin Jol has been complaining about the lack of efficiency in front of the goal. Where do you think the problem is?
Martin Jol is a big name but he had more options. This season we face more difficulties with the departure of key players as I said. Despite this, we don't depend only on our strikers to score goals. I am trying to push players further from midfield and defence to go forward and score.
Defense line came under some criticism with the recent absence of defenders Ahmed Hegazy and Rami Rabia due to injury. How do you respond to that?
We only received one goal from a penalty until now so I believe that we have no problems at all in the back line. Sure, the absence of Hegazy and Rabia is important, but the performance of their replacements Mohamed Naguib and Saad Samir has been excellent, even better given the team's results.
Do you find it a handicap to have only one empty slot in your squad as you were appointed right before the kick off start?
It is better for any coach to choose his own squad, especially if there are new signings, but the sudden change of the technical staff put us in this situation. I can't blame the management for that; what happened is normal in football. I didn't see the new signings because they were brought in before I came. I only watched them in trainings which is totally different from official games. I know people are asking about them but they should understand that using the new players is subject to criteria—my main objective is to win matches, not introduce new players. For me the team comes first.
Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry speaks to Ahram Online (Menna Alaa)
You said you want a foreign striker in January. What qualities are you looking for?
Simply, he must be convincing and capable of playing for a big club like Ahly. He must be fast, skillful and an experienced striker who has played a lot under pressure.
In your starting eleven you have at least 5 players over the age of 30, do you plan to pump in new blood to reduce the age average?
So far I am satisfied with them as long as the veteran players perform well. They still have a lot to deliver and they provide the team and their colleagues with valuable experience. Regarding the future, of course we will take care of that aspect and it is a normal process, but for now there is no need for change.
What is the difference between this time at Ahly and your previous stints and what are the problems you want to avoid?
Every stint had its own circumstances. Last time I was accused of fleeing the team, but people know now find that now that the departure was by mutual agreement with the previous management.
This time I feel more support from the fans which I consider greater than the previous two spells. I felt huge support even before my return as fans always asked me wherever I went to come again, despite periods of stability last season. There is big support from fans, people and even the media; it is totally different.
And how about the crowd ban on football stadiums in Egypt?
There is no doubt that the fan absence is affecting us negatively; they’ve played a key role in Ahly’s achievements and trophies over the years. Sure the players did great work, but we won many games due to the supporters' boost. Fans have always been a major boost for Ahly.
Playing league matches without a definite stadium for the team since last season—is this an issue for El-Badry?
Sure this is an issue and I think that solving this problem will be for the good of Egyptian football as a whole. Playing in a good and appropriate pitch improves the players’ performance, so solving the pitch problem is important.
How do you see the competition and main rivals this season and what about Ahly’s main targets?
The competition will be difficult especially with the teams that have good potential right now, like Smouha and Wadi Degla in the Egyptian league. Previously, Ahly and Zamalek were the only teams with the capabilities to be title contenders and some other teams like Ismaily, Masry and Ittihad of Alexandria who enjoyed a large fan-base helping them. Now there are others increasing the competition and the league has become more difficult.
Ahly's goals have always been the same—winning all titles in all competitions.
Finally, what are your next career goals?
As an Egyptian and Arab coach, I have no dream other than working in a big and great club like Ahly. It was a dream that came true and my main target is to achieve more titles.
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