Student Yousef Mahdy makes case for Egypt scouting trip to Dublin

Mahdy scored 12 goals to help University of Dublin FC to the Irish First Division title and promotion.
Updated 04 October 2018

Student Yousef Mahdy makes case for Egypt scouting trip to Dublin

  • University of Dublin FC striker trained with the Egypt U-18s two years ago.
  • Is able to play for Ireland and the Pharaohs.

LONDON:  If Javier Aguirre completes his four-year contract presiding over Egypt, his scouts will travel several familiar, well-trodden paths to assess hopefuls for the Pharaohs squad.

Judging by his first two squad selections, the Mexican is eager to harness those who ply their trade outside the Egyptian Premier League. That means scouting trips to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece, the MLS and, of course, the Premier League, to see some of the country’s most notable figures in the flesh.

But could Dublin soon be added to that list? The League of Ireland Premier Division seems an unlikely site for players boasting the potential to improve Egypt’s options. Ireland’s leading clubs have been beset by financial troubles for years, while their brightest prospects are continually hoovered up by richer cousins in England. It is not exactly on Cairo’s doorstep either.

Yet striker Yousef Mahdy — nicknamed Yoyo — will grace the Premier Division in 2019 after his 12 goals have just steered the University of Dublin FC to the Irish First Division title and promotion as a consequence. What’s more, he is Egyptian and fiercely proud of it.

Mahdy was born in Saudi Arabia to Egyptian parents, before moving to Ireland aged just two. He has spent his life living between Dublin and Shamrock, but travels to the family home in Alexandria each summer.

“If someone asks me where I’m from, I always say Egypt. I can speak Arabic, and speak it at home. I don’t feel out of place whenever I visit Egypt,” said Mahdy.

There is no conflict of interests with Mahdy’s dual nationality. He simply sees himself as belonging to the two countries that have shaped him. The 20-year-old boasts three under-age caps for Ireland, yet he also trained with the Egypt under-18s squad two years ago. Current Egypt Under-23 pair, Al-Ahly’s Ahmed Hamdi and Zamalek’s Ahmed Fatouh, were among those he rubbed shoulders with.

If ever the day does come when he is considered for a senior international call-up by either country, he would simply snatch the offer of whoever comes first.

He said: “I would be happy to play for either Egypt or Ireland. I would happily represent Egypt because of my background, it would be something my parents and family would be very proud of.”

Mahdy has a long journey ahead if he is to fulfil those ambitions though. He still has two years remaining of a commerce degree at the University of Dublin, with the semi-professional football team entirely composed of students at the institution. 

The likelihood is that the team will turn fully professional ahead of the Premier League division campaign, with players squeezing their studies into the remainder of their limited time.

The combination of work and play is one that Mahdy enjoys, so for the minute the pacy frontman is not thinking further ahead to whether he will ultimately prolong his professional career beyond his stint in Dublin.

“If football is still there, then I will be happy to move abroad or carry on playing in Ireland. I don’t have a set goal, my degree is really important to me though,” he said.

Boasting a team of all-students has its advantages. The camaraderie and common purpose of the team saw them buck pre-season predictions of a mid-table finish and seal the title by a three-point margin. They were well ahead of former Irish big-hitters Shelbourne and Roy Keane’s boyhood club Cobh Ramblers.

“We set out at the start of the season to win the league and to be honest, a lot
of us thought we would be overachieving to do that. But as the season went on, we were top of the league from week three on. We were comfortably beating teams,” said Mahdy. “The key to our success has been that we are all the same age group. We’re all really good friends — constantly hanging out together; some of us even live together. We have a bond that is hard to explain.

“It’s definitely going to be tough in the Premier Division, no doubt about it. But we played against (Premier Division) Waterford in the Cup and beat them convincingly. If we can keep up performances, then we should be able to stay up or even finish mid-table.”

Mahdy needs no prompting about the incentives to keep his budding career on an upward trajectory though. He boasts a diehard fan’s enthusiasm at witnessing Mohamed Salah and co end years of disappointment and take Egypt back to the top table of African football.

The prospect of one day playing alongside the Liverpool forward on the international stage is understandably an ambition that looms large for every young Egyptian. 

Mahdy added: “Salah is a role model and a lot of people in Egypt look up to him, not even because of the football. He carries himself really well as a humble person, as well as obviously being a great player. Past players that Egypt have looked toward did not really fit the bill, but he is going from strength to strength.

“I think the real breakthrough for Egypt was in last year’s African Cup of Nations because we had gone from such success to not even qualifying after the revolution. When we qualified, no one expected them to get out of the group, but we got to the final and I think then, you sensed that Egypt were getting back to where they needed to be. 

“World Cup qualification was something that never happens. But it was something that brought the whole country together and everyone was so excited.”

Mahdy will not get carried away with himself though. He is too grounded and evidently too intelligent for that. But maybe, just maybe, Salah’s future strike partner could come from unlikely origins.

Francesco Molinari looking for ‘dream’ end to season in Dubai at DP World Tour Championship

Updated 15 November 2018

Francesco Molinari looking for ‘dream’ end to season in Dubai at DP World Tour Championship

  • 2018 has been an incredible year for Molinari
  • If Molinari wins this weekend, it would make him just the third player in history to win multiple Rolex Series events

LONDON: Francesco Molinari is looking to end a fairytale season by becoming the European No. 1 at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, which starts today, and the first Italian to achieve the feat.
2018 has been an incredible year for Molinari, with a maiden Major victory in the Open Championship in July, which followed a first Rolex event victory at the BMW PGA Championship in May. He has also not missed a single cut this season, a run that extends over four years in regular European Tour events.
And in a glorious Ryder Cup for the Europeans, he became the first player from the continent to win five points out of five, while securing the winning point in his singles match against USA’s Phil Mickelson.
Speaking to journalists ahead of today’s tee-off, the Italian said: “It feels incredible, a new position for me, I’ve never been here in the past.
“I think it’s just a consequence and a sign of an incredible season. I would have never guessed that I would be here in this position if you told me in April or May this year but it’s been an incredible summer, topped by an unbelievable Ryder Cup.
“Really, it’s a dream season for me and it’s nice to be here in this position. Hopefully I’ll be able to close it out. I know it’s not going to be easy and I’m not making any assumptions but I’ll do my best on the course to do the job.
And when asked about his prospects of winning the Harry Vardon trophy this weekend, he said: “You can have the best week of your life and win one tournament but to win a competition that lasts throughout the season, with the amount of talent there is right now on the European Tour, is something really hard to do but it’s also still hard to figure out for me how I’m here in this position.”
Molinari needs to finish tied-fifth or better at the Jumeirah Golf Estates to seal the Race to Dubai crown, but Ryder Cup partner Tommy Fleetwood — the man he formed such a strong bond with in Paris — is the only man who can prevent him the perfect ending.
Victory for the Englishman on the Earth Course is the only way he can deny Molinari the title, but the Italian was full of praise for his “best friend” and would not begrudge Fleetwood if he successfully defended his Race to Dubai crown.
“I know we said this and we’re going to sound really cheesy but if I don’t win, I’d rather see him win than anyone else,” he said.
“We really are good friends and he’s had an amazing season. To think that he won last year and to come here, still with a chance to win two in a row, it’s incredible, really.
“So fair play to him. What I can say for me is that it’s been a great season and however it goes this week, I’m still going to have lots of great memories from all of what I’ve done this year, and probably the best memory is what we’ve done together with him in France.
“I can’t really be mad at him, even if he wins.”
If Molinari wins this weekend, it would make him just the third player in history to win multiple Rolex Series events and he praised the introduction of the European Tour’s prestige level of tournaments.
“There’s a few events that we target every year,” he said. “It’s great for us to have the opportunity to play in such special tournaments.
“Especially for guys like me, playing a home event in Italy that is part of the Rolex Series, just gives a completely new meaning to the Italian Open.”