A recent issue of the sports section of The Sunday Times devoted an entire page to Ahmed “Mido Hossam, Egypt’s most famous football export. As you can guess from the headline, “Jewel of the Nile, sports critic Joe Lovejoy does not dwell too long on Mido’s famous touchline bust-up with Egypt’s coach Hassan Shehata in the semi-final of last month’s African Cup of Nations. Lovejoy rather covered the odyssey of Mido, a nomadic young striker who has played in six top-flight European clubs in almost as many years.
However, it would be very odd to write a 1,500-word piece on Mido and not talk much about his moment of madness. With the score level at 1-1 against Senegal with 10 minutes left in the game, Shehata decided it was time Mido, who had been fairly useless up until then, was substituted. Mido ranted and raved, came nose-to-nose with Shehata and it looked like something worse was about to happen before the two were separated.
Shehata came out the eventual winner, his decision vindicated after the player who took Mido’s place scored the winning goal against Senegal with his first touch of the ball, a goal which took Egypt to the final. A few days later and Egypt had won the whole show, sans Mido who, for his petulance, was banned from playing the final against Cote d’Ivoire. He was also barred from wearing the Egyptian colors for five months.
What bothers some people and not enough people it seems: Shehata was not the only winner. Mido, too, emerged from that errant night none the worse for wear. His apology was duly accepted by Shehata and the Egyptian public who gave him one of the biggest roars of the night in Cairo Stadium when he hoisted the African trophy. He was allowed to take part in the celebrations. Virtually unscathed, Mido is now back in Tottenham, playing as if nothing ever happened.
Instead of being lambasted, Mido was provided with explanations, or rather excuses, for his personality failings. “Far from being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Mido left home at 16 to make his way in European football, writes Lovejoy. “Fending for himself from a young age, in a succession of countries, forged the independent spirit and outspoken nature that has often brought him into conflict with authority. He has learnt the hard way to stand up for himself and tolerate no slight, real or perceived.
And from Spurs boss Martin Jol: “I know he’s an emotional guy. A lot of the top players are. There is a lot of tension with them, because they want to perform.
So what are we to make of this? That the folly of youth, the travails of living abroad all alone and the determination to be the best make Mido who he is? This argument sounds frighteningly like Mido can’t do anything about who he is and has no control over himself, nor responsible for his actions.
But Mido is most certainly not innocent. His was one of the worst incidents of dissent ever seen in football, launched in front of a worldwide TV audience in the penultimate match of one of the world’s biggest football championships.
After the feud with Shehata, Mido went further, brandishing Shehata, the team and the entire Egyptian football federation amateurs. “In Egypt they are amateurs, Mido told the Daily Express. “The manager is an amateur, the team is amateur, and the association is amateur. They think they know everything. People can call me an arrogant Premiership player. The fact is that I am a Premiership player and they are amateurs.
For Mido’s behavior and language punishment was meted out, but it simply does not do justice to the crime. Egypt is not slated to play anything more serious than a few friendly games during Mido’s five-month ban. While few will ever forget the extraordinary Mido-Shehata showdown, many are willing to let bygones be bygones.
In truth, many of these good-hearted folks were the chic crowd of Cairo, not particularly soccer savvy who in many cases never saw a match in their life and who came less to see a match than to be seen. Their willingness to forgive and forget stems from their meager sports background. Novice football watchers believe what they witnessed was an everyday occurrence. In fact it was an aberration, a coach substitutes, a player obeys: Full stop.
Reaction to the incident also shows a noticeable malaise in Egyptian society. We no longer know the difference between right and wrong. The dividing line has not only been blurred; it has in many instances, been eradicated.
As for being young, there are hundreds of athletes of Mido’s age and younger who are more famous and earn more millions but who possess the four M’s: Much More Mature than Mido.
Mido and so many other athletes are role models. Kids look up to them; they want to be like them. When a 12-year-old sports child sees Mido shouting right in his coaches’ face, he’ll probably think of doing the same to his coach. And he might also try it out on his teachers. Then perhaps one day will come the turn of his mother and father.
Mido disagrees. “What happened was exaggerated by the media, he insists. “The thing got bigger and bigger with every story that appeared. Everything is fine now.
This is exactly the problem.