Fan favourite Abou-Treika survives Ahly's strict disciplinary code

Hatem Maher, Tuesday 11 Sep 2012

Mohamed Abou-Treika's fame and reputation come in handy during a headline-grabbing dispute with Cairo giants Ahly

Mohamed Abou-Treika of Egypt's Ahly celebrates scoring against Ethiopian Coffee FC during their CAF Champions League soccer match at the Military Stadium in Cairo April 8, 2012 (Photo:Reuters)

The cult status of star Mohamed Abou-Treika spared him the fate of several outcasts who have fallen victim to Ahly's strict disciplinary code.

Egypt and Africa's most successful club is known for its rigid stance when it comes to disciplinary issues, having dispensed with many stars who once seemed untouchable.

Veteran playmaker Abou-Treika, one of Ahly's best-ever footballers, incurred the wrath of the club when he pulled out of Sunday's Super Cup game against ENPPI to stand by the team's hardcore supporters, the Ultras Ahlawy.

The ardent group of fans have persistently called on the club's players to withdraw from the match because "justice has not been done" in the notorious Port Said case. Abou-Treika was the only one to live up to their expectations.

Ahly's management were widely expected to come down hard on the 33-year-old, but instead he was suspended for two months, fined LE500,000 and stripped off the captain's armband.

By Ahly's own standards, the punishment handed out to Abou-Treika was lenient.

"I didn't ask that Abou-Treika be let go, as he is one of the club's icons. I helped to limit the sanctions," said Ahly coach Hossam El-Badry, who had a strained relationship with the Egyptian international during his previous stint at the helm.

"The management took into consideration the fact that this was the first mistake for the player, who has had a great history at the club."

Zero tolerance

Ahly are usually lauded by local media and fans for their zero-tolerance approach, which pundits say ensures the club remain intact, avoiding the fate of Cairo rivals Zamalek who are suffering from constant administrative problems.

Enthusiastic Ahly supporters stood by their club when the board of directors opted to offload the likes of Hossam Hassan, Ibrahim Saied and Essam El-Hadary, all of whom were deemed untouchable.

Striker Hossam Hassan, Egypt's all-time leading scorer, left Ahly for bitter foes Zamalek in the summer of 2000 after falling out with late football director Tahebt El-Batal, and then German coach Rainer Zobel.

Hassan made no secret of his desire to take charge of Ahly after becoming a coach following his retirement, but the Red Devils snubbed his overtures.

Saied, a promising and versatile defender in the early 2000s, tried to rejoin Ahly more than once after they released him in 2003 due to continuous disciplinary problems, but to no avail.

Ahly even turned down a request by former Portuguese coach Manuel Jose, a fan favourite himself, to bring back Saied, who also moved to Zamalek afterwards.

The six-time African champions were equally resolute when Essam El-Hadary, who is arguably Egypt's best-ever goalkeeper, violated his contract with them to join Swiss side Sion in 2008, a few weeks after steering the Pharaohs to an African Nations Cup triumph.

Regretting his decision and apologising for it several times, El-Hadary failed to win a pardon from Ahly, who have struggled to bring in a reliable replacement for him since.

Sensitive issue

Abou-Treika's popularity played a pivotal role in prompting Ahly to keep hold of him, with the mild-mannered footballer guiding them to a host of domestic and continental titles since joining from modest club Tersana in 2004.

He steered the club to seven Egyptian Premier League titles, two Egypt Cup triumphs and three African Champions League competitions, among other accolades.

He has scored 79 league goals for Ahly and finished as the competition’s top scorer in 2006 with 18 goals.

The sensitivity of the Port Said saga was also a decisive factor in the decision of Ahly management, who were cautious not to further inflame tensions between themselves and the Ultras Ahlawy.

Ahly's board was accused by the fans of abandoning the quest for justice for the 70 plus victims of Egypt's worst-ever football disaster, which occurred on 1 February this year when thousands of Masry fans confronted the visiting Ahly contingent following the end of an ill-tempered league game.

Social networking websites were rife with comments supporting the talented schemer, with some fans posting a digitally-altered team picture consisting of 11 Abou-Treikas. Others have created a Facebook event to call on fellow supporters to pay the LE500,000 fine "in coins" to irritate the club, which has rarely had any problems with its fans throughout its 105-year history.

Abou-Treika was also backed by many political figures and groups, including the influential 6 April Youth Movement.

"I respect Ahly and I totally accept the punishment," Abou-Treika said in a statement on Ahly's official website.

"I was eager to call the technical staff and my teammates to apologise to them even before the punishment was announced. Now, I want to repeat my apology to the management, technical staff and my teammates."

Reports suggested Abou-Treika's teammates were infuriated because his actions imply that they could not care less about justice for the Port Said victims.

Apparently, anyone of them would have been treated harshly by Ahly's board if they had committed a similar violation.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter: @AO Sports/ and Facebook AhramOnlineSports)

Short link: