Jailed chairman of Egyptian team Zamalek is dropped by club's board

Pro-government talk show hosts say punishment of Murtada Mansour shows no one is above the law in Egypt

epa07074981 Zamalek's president Mortada Mansour (C) and Zamalek's players celebrate after the Egyptian-Saudi Super Cup match between Saudi al-Hilal and Egypt's Zamalek, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 06 October 2018.  EPA-EFE/AHMED YOSRI *** Local Caption *** 54681806
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The chairman of top Egyptian football club Zamalek has been removed from his post following his conviction and imprisonment for publicly defaming the head of a rival Cairo side, the club said on Sunday.

Murtada Mansour’s membership of Zamalek was dropped by the club’s board just hours after Egypt’s highest appeals court upheld his conviction and a 30-day prison sentence, originally handed down by two lower courts. He was sentenced for defaming Al Ahly’s popular chairman Mahmoud El Khateib.

Board member Suliman Wahdan has been named interim Zamalek chairman until elections are held, the club said.

Mansour voluntarily attended in person the verdict hearing at the Court of Cassation in Cairo and was later taken in a police van to the Wadi Natorun prison complex in the desert north-west of Cairo to serve his sentence.

His imprisonment brings down the curtain, perhaps only temporarily, on years when Mansour was accused of tormenting rivals, critics, players and talk show hosts with television interviews in which he insulted them, belittled them and threatened to reveal what he claimed was compromising information about their personal lives.

Mansour, a former judge, has vexed many Egyptians for years with his outbursts, raising the question of whether he escaped justice because he enjoyed the support of influential people.

“El Khateib showed tenacity and tirelessly pursued his case against Murtada Mansour until the end,” said Sabry Sirag, a prominent football commentator. “Murtada Mansour never had a good word to say about anyone for years. The media loved him because he trended on social media every time he spoke,” he told The National.

Khaled Murtagy, the son of a decorated army general and a senior Al Ahly official, alleged in a recent television interview that his lawyer was “persuaded” to withdraw an official complaint against Mansour when the latter insulted his father.

Mansour had earlier claimed that Gen Abdel Mohsen Murtagy was to blame for Egypt’s humiliating defeat by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. The general, who died in 2013, led Egypt’s ground forces in that war and was also Al Ahly’s chairman.

In another recent interview, Mansour referred to prominent TV talk show host Ahmed Musa as a monkey and a police informer.

The case against Mansour was brought by Mr El Khateib, a star striker in the 1980s, after the former Zamalek chairman insulted his late sister.

Pro-government commentators have interpreted Mansour’s imprisonment as concrete proof that no one is above the law in Egypt.

“Today was a victory for the state of law,” Mr Musa, the talk show host, said on Saturday night.

Popular show host Amr Adeeb of MBC, himself an avid Zamalek supporter, said the verdict dismissed the widespread belief among Egyptians that Mansour was untouchable.

“What happened today shows that no one in Egypt has a feather on his head,” he said, referring to an Egyptian saying about people who enjoy special treatment.

“It’s important that people see justice is served. Nothing works if there is no justice. Everyone must pay for their actions.”

Zamalek is one of the most successful clubs in Africa, having won five African Champions League titles and five other continental titles. The club has won Egypt's top-tier league 14 times.

However, Mansour's outbursts have hurt the club's image in recent years, although some Zamalek supporters see him as a zealous defender of the club and a campaigner against the alleged bias by football authorities in favour of Al Ahly.

Updated: February 26, 2023, 2:31 PM