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Registered on a Friday
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 03 - 01 - 2019

If you are a true Ahly fan, then you're surely living a nightmare these days and it's easy to see why. The reigning Egyptian league football champions are struggling big time on and off the pitch this season while their fierce rivals Zamalek are flying high in the league table and are witnessing unprecedented stability off the pitch that have put them in pole position to be champions come the end of the season.
And it's not just Zamalek that Ahly are struggling to catch up with in the league table as the Red Devils reached a new low point this season at the hands of new team Pyramids FC. This week, Pyramids, formerly known as Assiouty Club, managed to put one over Ahly by defeating them 2-1 thanks to a goal and an assist from former Ahly player Abdallah Al-Said who signed for Pyramids just a few hours before the game.
The influential playmaker cancelled his contract with Saudi club Al-Ahly one day before the Egyptian league game and arrived in Cairo the following morning to sign with Pyramids FC to make his debut against his former club, all on the same day. The story seems crazy especially when all this happened on a Friday which is supposed to be a day off in all sectors across the country.
However, Al-Said was registered and Pyramids coach Hossam Hassan decided to play him from the start even though he did not train with his teammates at all. And what a decision it was from Hassan. Abdallah put up a vintage performance and single handedly won the game for his side in the second half as he assisted on the first goal with a brilliant cross and scored the winner with a bullet shot from close range after being set up by the best player in the league this season, the Brazilian Kino.
The loss is a huge blow for the Red Devils both on the pitch and off it. On the pitch, it meant that even if they win their three games in hand, they will still be eight points behind the free scoring Zamalek who are on track to win the league this season.
Off the pitch it's a setback because of the well-known dispute between Ahly and Turki Al-Sheikh, the Saudi owner of Pyramids FC. Al-Sheikh, who had a falling out with Ahly when he was an honorary member of their board, wanted to win the game so badly that he promised his players LE350,000 each if they managed to collect maximum points.
The first half ended 1-0 to Ahly via Moroccan Walid Azaro's header but the second half was a different story as Pyramids notched two goals to take the season from bad to worse for Mahmoud Al-Khatib, the president of Ahly Club. After the game, the Red Devils sought an explanation as to how Al-Said was registered on a Friday despite it being an official day off in all sectors across the country.
In addition, the club is demanding LE2 million compensation from Saudi club Al-Ahly after the club cancelled the player's contract to prevent the Red Devils from pocketing $2 million if they sold the player to any Egyptian club. Cancelling the contract meant Abdallah was a free agent which meant that the Saudi club was not part of the deal taking him to Pyramids. But Al-Khatib and his board see this as a game between Turki and the Saudi club to prevent the Egyptian champions from taking the $2 million included in the contract if the Saudi club sold Abdallah to any Egyptian club.
It's fair to say that Al-Khatib, a former vice-president of the club, is having a nightmare first season as the club's president starting with his clash with Al-Sheikh at the beginning of his tenure until this latest loss that seriously dented the Red Devils chances of repeating as league champions. The team looks mediocre, the players lack character and personality but above all Al-Khatib, an Ahly legend in his heydays as a player, and board members seem to be struggling with managing a club like Ahly. The champions sit sixth in the table and even if they managed to win their postponed games they will still be only level on points with Pyramids.
This is certainly an unfamiliar position for Ahly fans who will demand a lot from the board in the coming months to take the club back to the top.

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