Monday, June 22, 2009

False ambitions

To have ambitions is fine, but they have to be realistic ambitions.

It was for this reason that I was amused when Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek called on national athletes, especially the national football squad, to emulate the Egyptian team who beat the reigning World Cup champions Italy in a Confederations Cup match last week.

"They should study how an underdog country like Egypt could do so when everybody knows they are not among the superpowers in the sport," he said.

Is Egypt an underdog and not a superpower?

Egypt's victory over Italy may be a surprise, but they cannot be denied the credit that is due to them.

The Egyptian national team, affectionately known as the Pharaohs, have a distinguished record including two fourth-placed finishes at the Olympic Football Tournament (1928 and 1964) and a third appearance in 1984. However, although in 1934 they became the first African country to participate in the FIFA World Cup finals, Egypt have made only one subsequent appearance on football's greatest stage, at Italy 1990.

The Pharaohs have won a record six CAF Africa Cup of Nations titles, seized in 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006 and 2008, and can count the likes of Ali Abugreisma, Mahmoud El Khatib, Ibrahim Youssef, Magdi Abdelghani, Tahar Abouzeid, Hossam Hassan, Hany Ramzy and Mohamed Aboutrika among their greatest all-time players.

Currently they have players playing in Europe. Among them include Mohamed Shawky (Middlesbrough), Mohamed Zidan (Borussia Dorthmund), Mido and Amr Zaki (both Wigan)

Other achievements include victory in the African Games football tournament twice (1987 and 1995), and the African Youth Championship once (2003). The U-20 team also took third place at the FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina in 2001. In 1997, when Malaysia hosted the FIFA U-20 Youth World Cup, Egypt hosted the FIFA U-17 World Championship. In September (Sept 24-Oct 16 2009), Egypt will host the U-20 World Championship.

Egypt is ranked 40th as compared to Malaysia's 159th.

Egypt's best-known coach is Mahmoud El Gohary, who took the national team to the FIFA World Cup finals in 1990. He is the only person to have won the African Cup of Nations both as a player (in 1959) and as a coach (1998).

With such rich and successful history behind Egypt, to consider them minnows is indeed an insult to them.

Maybe Malaysia should look closer to home, to learn to walk before we start to run. Thailand or even Vietnam, will be countries good enough for Malaysia to emulate. It may be embarrassing for Malaysia to emulate countries like these, for we were far more superior to them not so long go, but that is the reality.

Let us have realistic ambitions and achieve it, rather then just hope for miracles to happen.

Footnote: Egypt lost to USA 3-0 in their next match and failed to make the semifinals of the Confederations Cup. The inconsistency is one area the Malaysians will not have any problems emulating – being champions one day and mediocre the next.


rakan muda said...

Minister lembab..apa nak buat.

vincent ho said...

The onus is on his advisors...not giving him all the facts about the game and about the Pharoahs. I would like to also suggest if the Minister has the time to do his own research besides depending on his sports advisors. It will serve him well on it.

Hardev said...

Whilst it is true they have few Egyptian players plying their skills in Europe but many of them happy to play their own league. Egypt has one of the best league in African continent. IT IS A REAL COMPETITIVE FOOTBALL LEAGUE!!!