The past four weeks of the National Football League were rich with surprises, transfers and coach changes. Unlike most of the weeks of the first half of the 58-year-old championship, the beginning of the second half wasn’t business as usual. As the competition gained more momentum, spectators renewed their interest in watching the games.
Al-Ahli’s 2-1 victory over Zamalek didn’t surprise anybody, as Al-Ahli’s curve was at its peak, while Zamalek’s performance was taking a turn for the worse. But in fact the biggest surprise that raised many eyebrows was the humiliating 3-0 defeat the Red Devils suffered on the hands of the coastal city team Ismaili in Cairo in their encounter postponed from the first half. Having finished third in the prestigious Clubs World Cup in Japan in December, it was totally unexpected that the African champions would fall an easy prey to the junior players of second-placed Ismaili.

Al-Ahli’s 2-1 victory over Zamalek didn’t surprise anybody, as Al-Ahli’s curve was at its peak, while Zamalek’s performance was taking a turn for the worse. But in fact the biggest surprise that raised many eyebrows was the humiliating 3-0 defeat the Red Devils suffered on the hands of the coastal city team Ismaili in Cairo in their encounter postponed from the first half. Having finished third in the prestigious Clubs World Cup in Japan in December, it was totally unexpected that the African champions would fall an easy prey to the junior players of second-placed Ismaili.
The defeat, in fact, came to cap a series of poor performances by Al-Ahli since their return from the world championship. Al-Ahli’s defeat revived Ismaili’s hopes of competing for their fourth national league title, as the point difference was reduced to only six points. The unprecedented defeat prompted Al-Ahli officials to reinforce their line-up during the January transfer period in an attempt to maintain their leading position. They managed to sign Assiut Petrol’s striker Abdel-Hamid Hassan, and Tunisian import Anas Bojelban of Sfaxien.
However, the oil company team Enppi, which is in 12th position with only 20 points, stunned football fans when it defeated Ismaili 1-0 in Cairo. Ismaili’s defeat restored the point difference between Al-Ahli and Ismaili to nine, making it more difficult for the latter to catch up with the title holders.
The surprising victory Enppi achieved over Ismaili could be referred to new coach and former Egyptian national team captain Hani Ramzi, who took responsibility for the team after the club’s board decided to do without the services of German coach Reiner Tsobel, who was appointed as a consultant. Ramzi, who returned to Egypt after a long successful professional career in the German Bundesliga, has always complained that Tsobel turned a deaf ear to his advice when he was a general coach.
“I, Mohamed Youssef, Khaled Metwalli and other members of the technical team used to sit together and take decisions to correct some wrongs in the team so that it could be back on track, but Tsobel always ignored our advice,” Ramzi said. Ramzi added that Tsobel “was so nervous and always put players under pressure, which was negatively reflected on their performance during matches. He also failed to deal with the players, a matter that made them lament the days of former coach Taha Besari.”
Ramzi didn’t solely blame Tsobel, arguing that the change in tactics and the joining of new players in the team who needed time to blend in, negatively affected the results of the team. “Also, there are some players who do not have the spirit of winning, and all they care about is collecting money,” he added.
Ramzi, who received coaching courses in Germany, promised that he would be strict in dealing with such players. He also hoped that “the team will restore its good performance, occupy an advanced position, or at least garner 35 points to remain in the premiership league.”
In an attempt to rescue the team from being relegated to the second division league, the club’s board managed to sign international goalkeeper and former Al-Ahli player Nader El-Sayed. Having been fed up with Al-Ahli coach, Manuel Jose, who kept him among the substitutes for a very long time, El-Sayed decided to find new pastures in Enppi.
Of all the oil teams, only Petrojet kept its outstanding performance, in spite of the two consecutive losses it suffered on the hands of Zamalek and Ismaili in the eighteenth and nineteenth weeks. The club is still in a quite advanced position, the eighth place with 27 points.
Assiut Petrol’s only achievement during the past month was drawing with powerhouse Zamalek. Otherwise, the team is still lagging behind in the 15th position with just 13 points out of 19 games. Many regarded the selling of its striker, Hassan, to Al-Ahli a wrong decision that could cost the team a lot in the coming period. Unless the team performs a miracle, it is highly unlikely that the club will remain among the premier teams.

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