ENPPI coach Mokhtar Mokhtar
Mokhtar Mokhtar has finally tasted glory after years of hard work, steering ENPPI to the Egypt Cup title following an upset victory over Zamalek, who looked overwhelming favourites to brush aside their unfancied opponents.
Looking ecstatic after the famous 2-1 comeback victory, which came before an enthusiastic Zamalek crowd who packed the 74,100-seat Cairo Stadium, Mokhtar revelled after grasping a title that always seemed elusive.
“I won titles before when I was an assistant coach, but this is the first time I celebrate a triumph as a manager,” Mokhtar, a mild-mannered boss, said in a television interview after ENPPI remarkably overturned a one-goal deficit at a stadium that is usually deemed intimidating for opponents.
Zamalek, who were in firm control in the first half, took a deserved lead few minutes into the second period when Amr Zaki’s superbly-executed header found the far bottom corner of the net.
ENPPI roared back through goals from central midfielder Adel Mostafa and striker Ahmed Abdel-Zaher to beat the odds and silence the shell-shocked fans, who saw Zamalek fail to end a three-year title drought.
“We were not worried after falling behind. I warned my players before the match not to lose their concentration and composure if they conceded a goal, so calmness was a determining factor in propelling us to that victory,” Mokhtar said, revealing a part of his character that always seemed useful in tense situations.
“We successfully unlocked Zamalek’s defence after relying on balls sent behind full-backs Hazem Emam and Mohamed Abdel-Shafy following counter attacks,” he added, revealing a tactical nous.
Mokhtar made his name with modest club Petrojet, whom he transformed from a team languishing in the second division to a one that challenges for a top-five finish in the Premier League.
He led Petrojet to Premier League promotion in 2006 and the team have made notable progress then, finishing in the top five three times, including a third-place finish in the 2008-09 season which earned them a place in the African Confederation Cup for the first time in their history.
Under his guidance, Petrojet were lauded for producing an attractive brand of football that saw several of their players, including Walid Soliman and Mohamed Shaaban, earn call-ups to the Egyptian national team.
The 57-year-old took over at Port Said-based club Masry in the summer of 2010 but his tenure abruptly ended few months later, although the big-spending club produced some superb performances and were just eight points short of leaders Zamalek.
He had a short stint with Saudi side Wehda before being appointed as ENPPI’s coach this summer. It was time that his unheralded success finally came to prominence.
ENPPI sold inspirational playmaker Soliman to Egyptian champions Ahly, a transfer that deprived them of the only player who could provide creativity and spark.
However, Mokhtar was still able to preside over a successful Egypt Cup campaign, few weeks following his arrival, as ENPPI won the title for the second time in their history.
They overcame Ahly, who were not helped by the introduction of Soliman in the latter stages of the game, in the round of 16 before securing hard-fought victories over Ittihad El-Shorta and Arab Contractors.
They stunned Zamalek in the final to give Mokhtar a title he long yearned for.
“Thanks God for that win, I’m very happy,” he added, few hours before his side begin their league campaign against Gouna on Saturday.