Egyptian football is in turmoil again, this time over the fallout from the Pharaohs’ shock defeat against Ethiopia and the on-air firing of the national coach after just three games in charge.
Egyptian Ehab Galal succeeded Carlos Queiroz two months ago after the Portuguese failed to agree terms to extend his contract.
But a 2-0 defeat against Ethiopia in 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying last week left Egyptians fuming and calling for the coach’s head even before the 4-1 friendly defeat against South Korea on Tuesday.
Gamal Allam, head of the Egyptian Football Association, called in to a popular TV talk show this week to say that two members of the EFA board were already looking at possible replacements for Galal, effectively sacking him live on air.
Galal, according to local media reports, learnt of his dismissal when he was about to board a plane to Seoul. He bade the players farewell after the South Korea friendly and flew to the US for a holiday.
“We are looking to correct our mistake,” Allam told TV host Ahmed Moussa. When asked why they had hired Galal in the first place, his response raised eyebrows in the football crazy nation of 103 million people.
“I asked the man in charge of money at the federation whether we had dollars in the safe to pay for another foreign coach. He told me we didn’t,” said Allam. “We chose an Egyptian coach because of the country’s economic situation and the rising value of the dollar.”
He said Galal was making 750,000 Egyptian pounds a month (about $40,000), while his Portuguese predecessor Queiroz was cashing in $127,000 a month.
Local media reports said Allam and members of the EFA were expected to step down within the next few days, when a replacement for Galal will also be announced.
Egypt played Ethiopia without captain Mohamed Salah and several injured first-choice players, but were still expected to secure maximum Group D points against opponents ranked 108 places below them by Fifa.
The quick Ethiopian forwards repeatedly troubled a slow Egyptian defence in the opening half and goals from Dawa Hotessa and captain Shemeles Bekele sealed a comfortable victory.
The defeat could have only deepened the frustration felt by the Pharaohs and fans in recent months. But it also raised questions about how the sport is run and led to scathing criticism of its officials.
Egypt lost to Senegal on penalties in the Afcon final in February and fell to the West Africans again the following month, also in a shootout, this time in a 2022 World Cup play-off.
The record seven-time African champions needed 87 minutes to score the goal that beat Guinea in the opening round of the 2023 Cup of Nations qualifying early in June and the loss to Ethiopia left them bottom of the table.
“Things just cannot get worse than this,” said football commentator Sabry Sirag. “Ten years ago, football was run by retired footballers. Whether we agreed or disagreed with them is a different matter. Now the whole situation is absurd.
“Queiroz was able to hide the Pharaohs’ shortcomings as much as he could and took the team as far as possible, but we replaced him with a coach who claims to play sexy football but delivered nothing.”
Alaa Abdel Al, a football pundit known for his forthright comments, also took aim at Allam. “We handed the sport to someone who had never thrown in the ball, let alone kick it."