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Zamalek’s Recent Financial Crises Push the Club into a Precarious Position

September 8, 2023
Photo credit: Zamalek SC.
Photo credit: Zamalek SC.

Following the departure of Mortada Mansour in August — four months after a court ruling removed him from his position — from Zamalek Sporting Club, one of Egypt’s two biggest football clubs, the club has been grappling with a gruesome financial crisis. The latter has been due to outstanding debts owed to former athletes and coaches in various sports.

FIFA banned Zamalek from the transfer market in August as a consequence of failing to pay Sporting Lisbon USD 1.8 million (EGP 55 million) owed for the 2015 transfer of Mahmoud Shikabala.

The ban has prevented Zamalek from making any new signings during the current summer transfer window, leading it to participate in the 2023 King Salman Club Cup in Saudi Arabia without reinforcements, and resulting in an early exit from the tournament in the first round.

These challenges, coupled with mounting pressure from fans, left Zamalek’s entire board of directors with no choice but to resign from their roles ahead of the upcoming elections, which is scheduled to take place on 31 October.

Soliman Wehdan, a former member of the board, explained in a statement, “Zamalek’s board of directors has collectively decided to submit their resignations, which will be submitted to the Minister of Youth and Sports. We have prioritized the interests of Zamalek over our own, and this decision was made collectively by the majority of the members following extensive deliberation and a comprehensive review of all club-related matters.”

Some of Zamalek’s star players, including left-back Ahmed Fatouh, have threatened to leave the club due to its accumulated unpaid dues. Fatouh’s contract with Zamalek expires at the end of the upcoming season, allowing him to sign with any club of his choice in January. However, reports suggest that he might terminate his contract this summer if he does not receive the payments that have accumulated for months.

Zamalek’s management is concerned that Fatouh may choose not to renew his contract and could potentially join their rival, Al Ahly, following in the footsteps of his former teammate Imam Ashour, as rumors have suggested this possibility for the upcoming season.

Emad El Banani, the interim president of Zamalek, has stated that retaining two key players of the first football team, Fatouh and right winger Ahmed Said “Zizo,” is the top priority for his interim committee, which is currently responsible for administering the club’s affairs. El Banani mentioned that if either of these players receives a substantial financial offer, the committee will carefully consider it.

“We are facing significant financial crises and need to secure substantial amounts of liquidity. We had originally intended to postpone Zizo and Fatouh’s cases for the elected council, but we simply do not have the time. Both players have outstanding dues that must be settled immediately,” he stated in a Sunday morning television interview.

El Banani also addressed the possibility of the club’s transfer ban being lifted due to the current financial crisis, stating, “We are diligently working on this matter, but we do not possess a magic wand, and the solution requires substantial financial resources.”

“We are seeking support from Zamalek’s fans to address all the issues brought before FIFA in order to lift the ban,” he added.

According to El Banani, the interim committee is working to resolve the issue of the tax authority’s freezing of the club’s funds due to years of accumulated debt. However, because the total amount involved is now substantial, the club’s treasury is currently lacking in liquid assets, and the financial crisis is severe.

El Banani denied that the committee is negotiating to defer the fine imposed on Al Ahly player Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim “Kahraba,” stating, “It is impossible to consider this option as we are currently facing a severe financial crisis. Resolving the fine is our top priority, and we await its resolution.”

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee imposed a USD 2 million (EGP 61 million) fine on Kahraba, with 5 percent interest starting from June 20, 2019, until the fine is fully paid to Zamalek. This decision was made because Kahraba prematurely terminated his contract with Zamalek in 2019, moved to Deportivo Aves in Portugal, and then returned to the Egyptian league with Al Ahly.

Fan pressure and the rivalry against Al Ahly are also exacerbating the situation for Zamalek. The club, which was once one of the most successful clubs in the Middle East and Africa, is now facing the threat of losing its status.

Zamalek’s former player, Osama Hassan, summarized the situation by stating, “Zamalek will not compete for the title, as the club is facing a significant financial crisis, in addition to the difficult circumstances surrounding the football team due to the registration ban caused by the outstanding dues to Sporting Lisbon, Portugal, related to the transfer deal of the White Knights’ captain, Mahmoud Abdel Razek ‘Shikabala,’ as well as the dues of Benjamin Acheampong.”

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