Nomadic adventure of Egypt's Mido comes to premature end

Hatem Maher, Tuesday 11 Jun 2013

The player who used to make headlines in European football hangs up his boots at the age of 30, prematurely ending a career that saw him play for 11 clubs

(Photo: Ahram Online)

When asked about Egyptian football during a visit to Cairo in early 2012, Malaga winger Joaquin simply said "I only know Mido". Such was the nomadic striker's impact that he remained a household name in Europe even after his form faded in recent years.

Reporters jostling to interview some of the high-profile players who visited Egypt during the past decade almost got the same response, reflecting Mido's reputation as one of the country's best ever footballers to play overseas.

His off-field antics and controversial statements overshadowed his footballing capabilities at times, forcing him to switch clubs on almost a yearly basis and restricting his appearances with the Egyptian national team, with whom he made his senior debut at the age of 17, to a mere 51 caps.

A rollercoaster career spanning 13 years saw him play for 11 clubs, including two spells with boyhood club Zamalek, English side Tottenham Hotspur and Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam.

Mido announced his retirement from football at the age of 30 on Tuesday after admitting defeat in a fight to lose weight and regain his fitness that once saw him torment opposing backlines in Belgium, the Netherlands, England, France and Spain.

He also played in the Italian Serie A, which was one of the most competitive European leagues at the time, from 2004 to 2006 but could not bear staying on the bench for long at AS Roma.

"Today I announce that I'm quitting football. I want to thank all those who supported me during my football career, especially Egypt fans," Mido said on his Twitter account.

Promising youngster

The way he ended his last football stint, at English second-division side Barnsley, was in stark contrast to the impact he made in Europe as a promising frontman who boasted superb aerial abilities and a killer instinct.

He could only make one appearance with Barnsley due to his fitness and weight problems which blighted him in recent years, prompting him to work as a television pundit while dropping hints that it would be difficult to revive his career.

"He chose the suitable time to retire, given that his form notably faded during the last three years. He had to save his face so that people would remember his highly successful career," sports critic Alaa Sadek told Ahram Online.

"He is undoubtedly one of the best ever Egyptian players to play abroad. He set an example to follow. Our youngsters should follow in his footsteps and experience European football at an early age because that makes a huge difference."

Mido came through the youth ranks of Cairo side Zamalek before joining Belgium's Gent in 2000, where he rapidly established himself to win the "Ebony Shoe", an award given to the best African player in Belgium. He moved to the more fancied Ajax Amsterdam one year later.

He stole the limelight at the Dutch club with a series of impressive displays that culminated in the league and cup double in 2002, outshining strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic who later became one of Europe's most potent strikers and winning CAF's award for the best young player in Africa.

Disciplinary problems

However, signs of the disciplinary problems which haunted him throughout his career began to appear, straining his relationship with then Ajax coach Ronald Koeman. He also came under fire after reportedly throwing a pair of scissors at Ibrahimovic following a dressing-room argument.

A short yet successful loan spell at Celta Vigo in 2003 saw him play a key role in helping the club qualify for the European Champions League after scoring four goals in eight appearances.  

He came across as one of Europe's finest youngsters, earning a move to French side Marseille in the summer of 2003 where he forged an effective partnership with Didier Drogba. But he was outshone by the Ivorian marksman and had to leave to join AS Roma one year later.

He struggled to break into the starting line-up of a side featuring the likes of Francesco Totti and Vincenzo Montella and his frustration boiled over back at home when he was accused by many of failing to replicate his club form with the national team, with whom he had an uneasy relationship.

He was part of Egypt's squad for the 2004 African Cup of Nations but he could not prevent the Pharaohs from suffering a group-stage exit and few months later was dropped by Italian coach Marco Tardelli after being accused of feigning injury.

"If you asked any fan in Holland, Spain or France about the Egyptian football they will say they know nothing but Mido. Those who criticize me did not serve the country as much as I did," Mido famously said at the time.

Mixed fortunes

Mido enjoyed a successful 18-month loan spell at Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League, finishing the 2005-06 season as the team's second highest scorer with 11 goals in 27 appearances but his problems at the international level went from bad to worse during the 2006 Nations Cup in Egypt.

Then Egypt coach Hassan Shehata relied on him as the leading marksman until the semi-final against Senegal when both men were involved in an infamous touchline altercation, an incident that saw Mido miss the final win over Ivory Coast and left an indelible blot on his international copybook.

"The 2006 row was the beginning of a serious of mistakes from Mido that cost him dearly. It marked a turning point," Sadek commented.

He earned a permanent deal with Tottenham in the summer of 2006 but could not maintain his goal-scoring run. He also made a few appearances with Egypt despite publicly announcing that he had resolved his dispute with Shehata, missing the Pharaohs' Nations Cup triumphs in 2008 and 2010.

Brief stints with Middlesbrough, Wigan Athletic, West Ham United, Ajax, Zamalek and Barnsley failed to turn around his fortunes, during which social networking websites were rife with comments that mocked his weight.

"I have made mistakes in my career with some of my moves. I didn't stay and fight for my position," Mido said. "Now I have to learn from the past and think that it is not always an option to go somewhere else when I am not in the team.

"Sometimes you have to test yourself. You have to do everything you can to earn yourself a position in the starting 11."

Critics argue that Mido has not realized his potential, with his career twilight coming too soon for a player of such caliber.

"He could have done better in his career, definitely. He could have been in a better shape. But let's focus on the positives, Mido was our best player in Europe for long," Sadek added.

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

Mido's top ten goals

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