Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo

Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo
Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2021

Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo

Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo
  • Liverpool unlikely to sanction Salah’s release in July as he is set to participate in the African Nations Cup for Egypt’s senior team January

LONDON: Ahmed Hegazi provided good news for fans in Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week after signing a permanent deal with Al-Ittihad and also agreeing to join up with his country’s team at the Olympics in July.

The initial benefactor is Egypt. Coach of the U-23 team Shawky Gharieb has been facing  up to the prospect of heading to Japan without star forward Mohamed Salah, but now has at least some consolation as he will be able to take the in-form defender Hegazi to Tokyo, where the team will face Spain, Argentina and Australia starting on July 22.

The tournament is reserved for players 24 and under — with the age limit rising by one year due to the Olympics being delayed because of the pandemic —  but each country is allowed to call three “overage” stars.

Whether Salah’s release would be sanctioned by Liverpool has been a major discussion in Egyptian football ever since the team qualified last November by defeating Ivory Coast in the final of Africa’s U-23 Championships. The six-time European champions are reluctant to release the forward, especially as he is also due to participate in the African Nations Cup for the senior side in January and February along with Sadio Mane and Naby Keita. 

“I do not want to say that it is impossible for Salah to participate in the Olympics, but it is difficult,” Egyptian FA President Ahmed Megahed said on Tuesday. “Salah agreed to lead the Olympic team during the last camp of the Egyptian team.”

“We contacted Liverpool to allow Salah to join the Olympic team,” the president continued. “They said they were waiting for the approval of the technical staff, but in the end, Liverpool refused the request because they do not want to lose the player at the beginning of the season, as well as next January with the Africa Cup of Nations, which will keep him from participating in the English Premier League matches.”

It has been widely reported that the player is keen to go to Japan to take part in the Olympics and is trying to persuade the club to let him go. All should be finalized by the end of the week.

“We spoke with Salah again, and he told us that he will make a new attempt with the technical staff of his team, to resolve the matter, and within the next two days he will find a way,” added Megahed, though reports in England suggest that Salah has an impossible task.

It is not just Salah who is set to miss the plane to Tokyo, with Turkish team Galatasaray also set to refuse a call-up for Mostafa Mohamed. The Istanbul giants want the 23-year-old forward for their UEFA Champions League playoff against PSV Eindhoven in July. 

“Mustafa Mohamed wants to play in the Olympics, but he is certainly not the decision-maker,” Mostafa’s agent Ahmed Yehia said.

“If his club agrees, he will play with the Egyptian national team, but he will not enter into a conflict with his club in order to participate. The last information I have is that Mostafa Mohamed will not participate in the Olympics,” he said, adding that there was still a little hope for Egypt as officials at the club have changed and there is a chance a new decision could follow.

If Salah and Mohamed are, as expected, officially ruled out of the games, it remains to be seen who Gahrieb plumps for as his other two overage players. He released a shortlist of eight, which contains goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawy and midfielder Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal. 

While Al-Ittihad are likely to miss Hegazi for the opening couple of weeks of the next league season, fans will be delighted that the 30 year-old is going to stay for two more years. His arrival in Jeddah from the now-relegated English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion in October sparked a turnaround in the Tigers’ fortunes and, inspired by the defender, the team that was in a relegation battle started to climb the table and finished in an impressive third place. It was his goal in the penultimate match of the season that clinched a place in the 2022 AFC Champions League. 

For many observers, Hegazi, who played 28 games and scored three goals in all competitions, was the most impressive performer in the league over the season as a whole.

There has been more good news for fans as Brazilian coach Fabio Carille has signed a one-year extension to his contract and will be in charge of the club next season.

Saudi Arabia will also be in Tokyo and take on Brazil, Ivory Coast and Germany with Al-Hilal trio Salman Al-Faraj, Salem Al-Dawsari and Yasser Al-Shahrani going to Japan as the overage players.


UAE record goalscorer Ali Mabkhout extends contract at champions Al Jazira until 2026

UAE record goalscorer Ali Mabkhout extends contract at champions Al Jazira until 2026
Updated 05 August 2021

UAE record goalscorer Ali Mabkhout extends contract at champions Al Jazira until 2026

UAE record goalscorer Ali Mabkhout extends contract at champions Al Jazira until 2026
  • Mabkhout has appeared in 289 domestic matches, scoring 199 goals along the way, and won three league championships with the Abu Dhabi club

ABU DHABI: Ali Mabkhout, the Al Jazira FC and UAE national team all-time top scorer, has signed a new contract with the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) champions until at least 2026.

The 30-year-old has been a constant presence in the club’s recent history, and is a graduate of its youth academy. During his 17 years at the “Pride of Abu Dhabi,” Mabkhout has appeared in 289 domestic matches, scoring an astonishing 199 goals along the way.

“Al Jazira has always been my second home and my big football family,” said Mabkhout. “It is the club that gave me everything I could have wished for as a professional footballer. I want to thank everyone at the club for their continuous trust and support in me over the past years. Thanks to our esteemed leadership, the club has a clear vision and a great squad for great success in the upcoming years.

“I am very grateful to the ‘Pride of Abu Dhabi’s’ loyal fans for showing me unconditional support every single day,” he added. “I am very thankful for the opportunity to play for them for many years to come. They are one of the biggest reasons I train my hardest every day to live up to their high expectations on the pitch. My focus now lies on working with the rest of team to build on the great achievements of last year and fight for all titles next season.”

Having scored 171 goals in 234 AGL matches, the striker now sits just four goals away from becoming the all-time top scorer of the UAE’s top-flight league.

Lat season, Al Jazira’s vice-captain led the club to its third AGL title by playing every single minute of the campaign. Mabkhout’s exceptional turnout was topped by being crowned the league’s top scorer, with 25 goals in 26 matches, as well as leading the assists standings with 10, alongside fellow midfielder Khalfan Al-Mubarak.

“Mabkhout is one of the symbols of Al Jazira and Emirati football,” Mohammed Saif Al-Suwaidi, chair of Al-Jazira’s sporting committee, said. “We cannot measure the sheer importance of his technical ability to our team. He is also one of the best players to embody Al Jazira’s values and principles in the best way possible both on and off the pitch. Therefore, it was our top priority to renew his contract during this transfer window and to keep him at his second home for years to come.

“Many young players consider Ali an inspiration because of his efforts, commitment, spirit and high professionalism which he has showcased since the start of his footballing career,” he added. “All these qualities made him compete against some of the best and most famous international players in our league and enabled him to top them both on an individual and team basis. We are all happy and proud of everything he does and will continue to do for Al Jazira and the national team. We have high hopes in his ability to achieve even greater individual and team success in the future.”

During his tenure at the club, Mabkhout cemented himself as one of Asia’s most prolific strikers, winning the AGL on three occasions (2010-11, 2016-17, 2020-21), UAE President’s Cup three times (2010-11, 2011-12, 2015-16) and the Arabian Gulf Cup once. On the world stage, he has represented Al Jazira 12 times in the AFC Asian Champions League, scoring 13 goals along the way. He also featured in the 2017 Club World Cup, which saw Al Jazira secure fourth place.

“Ali is an influential member of the Al Jazira family, he has been proudly with us every step of the way of his distinguished career and has written his name in the history books of our club,” Al Jazira CEO Ali Youssef Al Hammadi said. “There was only one decision we always had in mind when it came to his future, and that was to pen down a long-term deal. Ali is respected and loved across the country and the wider global football community, and we take great pride that he actively gives back to our local community.”

The player’s collection of individual accolades with the Abu Dhabi club includes winning the AGL golden boot twice (2016-17, 2020-21) and being crowned player of the season in the title-winning 2016-17 season.

Mabkhout’s renewal follows a string of contract extensions by the club over the past few months to secure the services of its stars for the upcoming seasons, which include Ali Khaseif, Miloš Kosanović, Thulani Serrero, Khalifa Al Hammadi, in addition to Dutch head coach Marcel Keizer.


Egypt’s gold medal quest in men’s handball at Tokyo 2020 ended by France in semifinal

Egypt’s gold medal quest in men’s handball at Tokyo 2020 ended by France in semifinal
Updated 05 August 2021

Egypt’s gold medal quest in men’s handball at Tokyo 2020 ended by France in semifinal

Egypt’s gold medal quest in men’s handball at Tokyo 2020 ended by France in semifinal
  • Egyptians will face loser of 2nd semifinal between Norway, Russian Olympic Committee in Saturday’s bronze medal match

RIYADH: Egypt’s excellent run in the men’s handball contest at Tokyo 2020 on Thursday came to an end in the semifinals with a 27-23 loss to France at Yoyogi National Stadium.

The North African team once again put on a performance full of desire, but some careless finishing proved costly against a strong French outfit that now advances to Saturday’s final — its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal match — against the winner of the other semifinal between Norway and the Russian Olympic Committee.

Egypt will face the loser of that match in the bronze medal game on the same day.

The teams could not be separated at the break, the first half finishing 13-13, with the Egyptians well placed to advance if they could have maintained the form they had shown throughout the tournament.

The second half, however, was disappointing for Egypt with only 10 goals scored, and the lack of scoring power dogged them through a period in which France took a lead they would not relinquish.

With five minutes left to play, the Egyptians were 24-21 down and fast running out of time to save the match.

French keeper Vincent Gerard pulled off a number of priceless saves which could have cut the deficit, while the visibly tiring Egyptian attackers missed several presentable chances as the clock ticked down.

Despite obvious disappointment at the final whistle, Egypt’s players will now turn their attentions toward salvaging a bronze medal from what has been an outstanding competition for them.


Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition
Updated 05 August 2021

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition

Jordan’s Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa confirms semifinal place, and Olympic medal, in Tokyo 2020 Karate competition
  • The 25-year-old will face Eray Samdan of Turkey on Thursday afternoon knowing at least a bronze medal is now guaranteed

A four-match winning streak has seen Abdel Rahman Al-Masatfa of Jordan confirm a semifinal place, and a Tokyo 2020 Olympic medal, in the Karate Kumite -67kg competition on Thursday morning at the Nippon Budokan arena in the Japanese capital.

He will now fight Eray Samdan of Turkey in their last four match (from 3pm KSA). While the winners of the semifinals meet in the gold medal match, the losers will each receive a bronze medal.

The 25-year-old Al-Masatfa kicked of his participation in Pool B with an 8-3 win over  Kalvis Kalnins  of Latvia, and followed that up with 7-4 win over the Frenchman Steven da Costa.

After his bout against Angelo Crescenzo was cancelled due to the Italian pulling out of the competition, Al-Masatfa continued his winning run by beating Hamoon Derafshipour of the Refugee Olympic Team 3-0.

The Jordanian rounded up his Pool B matches with 4-1 win over Andres Eduardo Madera Delgado of Venezuela to secure his semi-final spot.

Meanwhile, Ali Elsawy of Egypt, fighting in the Kumite -67 Pool A, lost his opening bout 4-3 to Japan’s Naoto Sago, before losing his second match 4-1 to eventual semifinalist Samdan.

The 26-year-old Egyptian got back to winning way when he narrowly overcame Firdovsi Farzaliyev of Azerbaijan 1-0.

However, Elsawy lost his last Pool A match 3-1 to Darkhan Assadilov of Kazakhstan to exit the competition.


Disappointing morning sees three Arab wrestlers exit Tokyo 2020

Disappointing morning sees three Arab wrestlers exit Tokyo 2020
Updated 05 August 2021

Disappointing morning sees three Arab wrestlers exit Tokyo 2020

Disappointing morning sees three Arab wrestlers exit Tokyo 2020
  • Amr Reda Ramadan Hussen of Egypt reached the quarterfinal of the men’s freestyle 74kg competition before being knocked out

Thursday morning proved a hugely disappointing one for Arab wrestlers, as two Egyptian athletes and one from Algeria exited Tokyo 2020 at Makuhari Messe Hall in the Japanese capital.

Amr Reda Ramadan Hussen of Egypt started well, winning his men’s freestyle 74 kg round of 16 match 6-1 against Kamil Rybicki of Poland. Unfortunately, that would prove to be the day’s only success for the North African wrestlers.

Hussen went on to lose his quarterfinal 8-5 to Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Kaisanov to miss out on a chance of securing a shot at a medal.

Meanwhile, in the men’s freestyle 125 kg competition, Diaaeldin Kamal Gouda Abdelmottaleb of Egypt and Djahid Berrahal of Algeria were both comprehensively defeated in their round of 16 bouts.

Abdelmottaleb went down 11-0 to Geno Petriashvili of Georgia, while Berrahal lost 6-0 to Egzon Shala of Kosovo.

The results came a day after Egyptian wrestler Mohamed Ibrahim Elsayed won a bronze medal in the men’s Greco-Roman 67 kg event after beating Artrem Surkov of the Russian Olympic Committee at Makuhari Messe Hall.

Elsayed’s compatriot Mohamed Metwally had fallen just short of success, losing his own 87 kg bronze medal match 8-1 to the German Denis Kudla.


New national record not enough for Algerian to win Tokyo 2020 men’s triple jump medal

New national record not enough for Algerian to win Tokyo 2020 men’s triple jump medal
Updated 05 August 2021

New national record not enough for Algerian to win Tokyo 2020 men’s triple jump medal

New national record not enough for Algerian to win Tokyo 2020 men’s triple jump medal
  • Yasser Mohamed Triki finishes fifth with a jump of 17.43, just 4 cm behind the bronze medal winner

A supreme effort by Algerian Yasser Mohamed Triki saw him fall 4cm outside the medal places in the men’s triple jump competition at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Thursday morning.

A jump of 17.43m — a new Algerian record — saw him finish fifth, behind new champion Pedro Pichardo of Portugal (17.98), silver medalist Yaming Zhu of China (17.57), bronze medal winner Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso (17.47), and the American Will Claye, who finished in fourth just 1cm ahead of Triki.

The 24-year-old Triki had finished third with a jump of 17.05 in the qualifying round on Tuesday to book his place in this morning’s final.

His career-best performances came at the 2019 African Games in Rabat, where he won gold in the long jump and silver in the triple jump.