By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (September 6th 2021)
Paying the Price
Despite Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah joining the Pharaohs for yesterday’s match against Gabon, the 1-1 draw proved too much for the Egyptian FA to tolerate. Coach Hossam el Badry paid the price for an unconvincing 1-0 win against Angola and the draw in Gabon, even though his record was four wins, four draws and no losses.
The style of play and performance failed to impress Egyptian supporters. El Badry, a former Al-Ahly player, had alienated some Ahly supporters due to his ties with the recently formed Pyramids, which was controversially bankrolled by Saudi billionaire, Turki al-Sheikh when it was founded. El Badry was Chairman of the club. A year later it was sold to another foreign owner, Salem al-Shamsi. El Badry, a former Ahly coach, lost popularity with Ahly fans over his Pyramids connections – leaving Pyramids for the Egypt job didn’t erase the bad feelings. As an Ahly player he was naturally unpopular with Zamalek fans as well.
Despite being unbeaten in his eight matches in charge of the Pharaohs, it was not enough to save his job. After Egypt failed to secure the release of their captain Mohamed Salah for the Olympic Games, even though it ended before the start of the current English Premier League season, el-Badry found that he would have to do without Salah and others for the current round of World Cup Qualifiers because Egypt was one of the countries affected by Britain’s Coronavirus Red List.
The Red List Controversy
The British government refused to give footballers returning from World Cup duty exemptions. That meant those players would have had to quarantine for ten days. The Premier League clubs baulked at this and ‘reluctantly’ refused to release the players. This affected Brasil as well, which threatened to demand FIFA ban players from representing their clubs after the window ended.
As this meant missing less matches, the clubs were prepared to accept this. Brasil responded by abandoning their tie against Argentina during the match, claiming some Argentinean players had lied to enter the country. Egypt orihinally lost Salah and Mohamed Elneny – Aston Villa’s (Mahmoud Hassan) Trézéguet is recuperating from a serious injury.
However, Gabon was not on the Red List, so Salah travelled to Gabon, which was not on the Red List, for that match and played. Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also played. Neither has to quarantine on return to Britain for the duration specified if the country had been on the Red List.
Countries affected by the EPL stance also include Zambia and South Africa and crucially their opponents too. New Chipolopolo skipper, Enock Mwepu, and Patson Daka have not travelled with Beston Chambeshi’s squad for tomorrow’s vital clash against group favourites, Tunisia. Both played against Mauritania in the 2-1 away win.
Ghana beat Ethiopia – not on the Red List – 1-0 with a full-strength squad. Among those who had to return to England due to the Red List issue were Jordan Ayew, Daniel Amartey and Tarique Fosu. Others missing from the match against South Africa were Thomas Partey (injured) Jeffrey Schlupp, Reading’s Andy Yadom and Baba Rahman, the latter on loan from Chelsea. Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus missed both of Ghana’s World Cup qualifying matches. kamaldeen Sulemana, currently playing in France was only permitted to play against Ethiopia.
Despite, knowing about the absentees and planning for it, there is little doubt thhat losing so many players would have an effect on preparation and also performance.
Ghana’s squad was weakened. Ghana’s coach, CK Akonnor, wanted stronger action by CAF and FIFA over the Red List ban. Despite the requests of CAF President, Dr Patrice Motsepe and FIFA’s Gianni Infantino the clubs stuck to their stance and refused to release players for any tie in a Red Listed country. It is qualification for the World Cup, football’s most important international competition. If countries cannot have their best players for such competitions what does the international window mean? And if results are not what was expected and a coach gets fired and a country misses out on qualification, what then?
The lack of social distancing and masks at Wembley Stadium during the recently concluded Euro2020 and World Cup Qualifiers in Britain was eye-opening. And let’s remember that the Red List was operational before it and the Delta Variant has been causing mayhem before this and the cancelled June window.
Either the matches should have been cancelled or a better and safer way found.