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
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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.


Seeds tumble in Miami as Roger Federer remains on course for Novak Djokovic final

Updated 24 March 2019
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Seeds tumble in Miami as Roger Federer remains on course for Novak Djokovic final

LONDON: It was a weekend of shocks in both the men’s and women’s tournament at the Miami Open as world No. 1 Naomi Osaka was beaten, Serena Williams was forced to withdraw and Alexander Zverev fell to wildcard David Ferrer.
Elsewhere, Roger Federer kept the prospect of a matchup in the final with Novak Djokovic with a win over Radu Albot.
The Miami Open might have moved to a brand new location for this year, but Miami Gardens is already building a reputation as a seeds’ graveyard.
Williams withdrew on Saturday, blaming a previously undisclosed left knee injury. And less than two hours later, top seed Osaka lost to Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3.
Osaka’s shock exit equaled the record for the earliest ever in Miami by a top-seeded woman and, depending on results in the rest of the tournament, could see her lose her top spot in the world rankings.
“I feel like I’ve dealt with the stress of people asking me do I have pressure because I have the No. 1 next to my name,” Osaka said. “I thought I was doing fine with that, but I guess I’m not.”
She smiled when reminded it was the first time in 64 matches she lost after winning the first set.
“I know, it’s depressing,” she said. “I was thinking about it right after I lost.”
Osaka, 21, has won the past two Grand Slam tournaments.
Meanwhile, Williams’ withdrawal was surprising, having shown no signs of injury a day earlier while winning her opening match against Rebecca Peterson. Williams did not mention any injury problems during a news conference after the match, and the WTA had no information regarding when she was hurt.
Williams’ victory on Friday was her first at the Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Open’s new center court. The tournament moved this year from Key Biscayne, where Williams has previously won eight titles.
“I am disappointed to withdraw,” she said in a statement. “It was an amazing experience to play at Hard Rock Stadium this year, and I would like to thank the Miami Open for putting on an amazing event. I hope to be back next year to play at this one-of-a-kind tournament in front of the incredible fans here in Miami.”
Williams, 37, still hasn’t won a tournament since the 2017 Australian Open, before she took a break of more than a year to become a mother. She has played only eight matches this year.
Williams’ stay at the Miami Open was also brief last year, when she lost in the first round to Osaka. Friday’s match was Williams’ first since she retired from Indian Wells two weeks ago because of a viral illness.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer briefly seemed headed for the exit but instead advanced to the third round by rallying past qualifier Radu Albot 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
“Radu put me through the ringer,” Federer said.
Federer, a three-time champion, lost serve only once — in the first game — but was on the ropes until he swept the final three games, to the relief of an enthusiastic stadium crowd.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Federer said. “It was electric. I think that’s why I played so well at the end.
“I’m happy I got it out of the way. I’m happy I was able to find a way tonight,” the 23-time Grand Slam winner said.
But there was no joy for second seed Alexander Zverev, who double-faulted 12 times on his way to losing against Ferrer, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Ferrer was delighted with taking the scalp of the German.
“It means a lot, it’s a special day because it’s the last year of professional tennis for me. Winning these type of matches against a top 10 player like Sascha is a gift. I’m very happy and I’m trying to enjoy every point and every moment.
“My motivation is playing at a high level and be competitive. It’s my goal. I can’t play at my best level anymore, but I want to have good energy and play my best in every match,” he said.