A walk in 2020 sports: Ups and downs in year of COVID-19

Alaa Moustafa
15 Min Read
Egypt Cup final match

Only a few hours separate us from the end of 2020, which has witnessed a myriad of local and global events of confusion and mixed emotions. This year has very much been marked by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has greatly affected sports all over the world.

Sporting competitions worldwide were suspended for several months, before it was restarted, albeit with strict precautionary measures to prevent the further spread of the virus. This month, the Egyptian sport finally concluded the 2019/20 season by holding the Egypt Cup final match.

Despite the immense obstacles that this year has presented, Egyptian football still witnessed several wonderful events over 2020. Since the beginning of the year, domestic football teams have consistently proven their mettle at the continental level, with Egyptian teams being crowned with two very precious championships.

Daily News Egypt reviews the most prominent events in Egyptian sports during the year 2020.

Zamalek and its super start

Zamalek SC hit at lucky streak at the beginning of 2020, as the White Knights continued to shine at continental championships. This followed their winning the CAF Confederation Cup in 2019. In February 2020, the Cairo-based team won the CAF Super Cup for the fourth time in their history.

White February

Zamalek continued to shine in February, winning the Egyptian Super Cup at the expense of their traditional arch-rival and fellow Cairo team, Al Ahly. The match took place in the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, only one week after the White Knights took the CAF Super Cup.

Ramadan Sobhi leaves Al Ahly

In September, Egyptian football fans, particularly those of Al Ahly, were in for a big surprise when the club’s star Ramadan Sobhi left the ranks of the Red Devils to join Pyramids FC.

Top Cairo teams see coach departures

Egyptian mega-teams and Cairo arch-rivals, Al Ahly and Zamalek, both suffered severe blows during 2020, after the sudden departure of Al Ahly’s Swiss coach Rene Weiler, and Patrice Carteron departed from Zamalek.

Later, Al Ahly decided to contract with South African coach Pitso Mosimane, while Zamalek contracted with its former Portuguese coach Jimmy Pacheco.

Al Ahly and historical treble

The year 2020 was reasonably fair for Al Ahly. After the white start, the end of the year shifted in Al Ahly’s favour, with the team making history this year by achieving the treble, and winning the Egyptian Premier League, the CAF Champions League, and Egypt Cup titles.

Al Ahly won the Egyptian League title for the fifth time in a row, taking the title by 21 points ahead their closest competitors, Zamalek, which finished second. The CAF Champions League final, which was held at the Cairo International Stadium, witnessed a historic clash between the two Egyptian rivals. In a great match, the Red Devils were able to beat their traditional rival 2-1, to claim the continental title for the ninth time in their history.

After winning the CAF Champions League, Al Ahly continued to collect silverwares in 2020, as they were crowned the Egypt Cup champions at the expense of Talaia El-Geish.

Zamalek’s Board of Directors suspended

A few hours after Zamalek lost the CAF Champions League final, the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sports decided to suspend the club’s Board of Directors. The ministry highlighted financial irregularities at the club, and appointed a temporary committee to manage the club for a period of year.

Correcting Egyptian national team’s path

Egypt’s national team, under the leadership of Hossam El-Badry, only played four games in 2020, due to the postponement of African qualifiers for the World Cup and the African Cup of Nations.

The team’s first two matches against Kenya and the Comoros ended in draw at the beginning of the journey, which weakened their chances of qualifying. However, they then succeeded in achieving victory over Togo twice in the third and fourth rounds to take over their qualifier group’s leadership.

Egypt’s U-20 team suffer under COVID-19

The coronavirus prevented Egypt’s U-20 national team from participating in the North African Championship which qualifies for the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 in Mauritania. The team’s plans were scuppered after more than 18 players were infected with the coronavirus before their game against Tunisia.

The team, led by Rabie Yassin, arrived at Cairo International Airport from Tunis on-board a medically equipped plane. The team was taken directly to a quarantine hotel, and was prevented from participating in the qualifying tournament.

Big Ramy

The Egyptian bodybuilder Ramy Al-Sebaei, also called “Big Ramy”, hit the jackpot this year by winning the Mr. Olympia 2020 title, the largest and most famous championship in the bodybuilding sport worldwide. By winning the title, he has become the first Egyptian to achieve the title, and only the second Arab, following Lebanon’s Samir Bannout in 1983.

It also means that Big Ramy has placed his name among the giants of the bodybuilding world, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lovreno, Sergio Olivia, Ronnie Coleman, and others.

This year’s edition of the Mr. Olympia was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, from 17 to 20 December. Upon his return to Egypt, the bodybuilder thanked everyone who provided him with support and assistance, particularly his fans around the world, during his participation in the world championship.

Mo Salah continues to break records

Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah’s name is a bit hard to miss these days, especially given his performances on the pitch and his staggering goal-scoring capabilities. The Liverpool winger has continued to shine in the English Premier League, as well as in Liverpool’s other matches, by breaking records.

Since the Egyptian’s arrival to the Liverpool team’s ranks, he shines more every day.

The beginning of 2020 for Salah was the opposite of the rest of the season, after he lost the title of the African Player for the Year 2019, finishing second behind Senegal’s Sadio Mane. This was a sorry start to the year, having won the title in 2017 and 2018.

Indeed, the stubbornness of the New Year extended until March 2020, after Liverpool, the UEFA Champions League defenders, bid farewell to the Championship from the round of 16, at the hands of Atlético Madrid.

However, luck began to smile on the “Egyptian King” again in July 2020, with the team winning the English Premier League by a score of 99 points. It was the fourth tournament that Salah has won with the Reds, after the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, and Club World Cup.

Salah scored 19 goals to finish fifth on the top scorers’ list, and contributed to 29 of his team’s goals in the 2019/2020 season. This has ensured he ranked in second in the Premier League behind Kevin de Bruyne in terms of goal assists.

It seems that the 2020/2021 season will become Salah’s best season yet, as the Reds have played 16 games so far in the new season. The Egyptian has so far been the top scorer in the Premier League.

In December, Salah became Liverpool’s historic goal-scorer in the Champions League, after surpassing former Reds star Steven Gerrard, with 23 goals. He also scored his team’s fastest goal in the competition, just 55 seconds after the match started against Italy’s Atalanta.

Moreover, Salah won the award for the best player in the English Premier League for the 2019/20 season, with the public vote in the poll announced an English newspaper.

In November, Mohamed Salah was awarded the “Inspirer” award by the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), as a shining example for millions of the world’s youth.

The year 2020 also saw Salah equal legendary footballer Cristiano Ronaldo’s English Premier League goal tally of 84 gaols, but in 65 fewer games. Ronaldo netted 84 in 196 appearances with Manchester United across six seasons as opposed to Salah’s 131 games.

Salah also came third on the final list for the Globe Soccer Award, which was awarded to Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player of the 21st century. Argentina’s Lionel Messi came second.

Departure of legends

Football lost many legends in 2020. The most notable of these losses were Argentina’s controversial but hugely talented midfielder Diego Maradona, Italy’s Paolo Rossi, and England’s Jack Charlton. The trio  lifted the World Cup trophy during their careers. The losses didn’t stop there, either, as legendary goalkeeper Ray Clemens also passed away.

Goodbye Jack

On 10 June, the English football and Leeds legend Jack Charlton, and the star of England’s golden generation of footballers, passed away at the age of 85. The 1966 World Cup winner had been suffering from lymphoma and dementia.

During his 21-year career with Leeds, Charlton achieved many titles, including an English Premier League title in the 1968/69 season, the Federation Cup in 1972, and the League Cup in 1968. This was in addition to the biggest achievement of winning the European Cup twice in 1968 and 1971.

Flying goalkeeper Ray Clemence

Legendary Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence passed away on 15 November, at the age of 72.

He won a total of five English Leagues with Liverpool, in the 1972-73, 1975-76, 1976-77, 1978-79, and 1979-80 seasons.

Clemence won the Champions League three times and the European League twice, apart from the Cup and European League championships with Tottenham.

World Cup winner Paolo Rossi

The Italian national hero Paolo Rossi passed away on 9 December, at the age of 64, after a long battle with illness.

His death caused deep sadness in Italy, especially in the north-eastern city of Vicenza for whose team Rossi was a prolific goal scorer.

Rossi led the Italian national team to a World Cup win in 1982, and was the top scorer during the championship in Spain, scoring six goals.

Maradona now in God’s Hands

The death of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, on 25 November, caused a shock in the world of sports. Maradona’s passing at the age of 60 has been attributed to heart and lung complications as he recovered from brain surgery at home.

The Argentine legend’s departure caused a great wave of sadness in Argentina and the Italian city of Naples, after bringing the latter much happiness by leading its team to its only two league titles in 1987 and 1990. He also contributed to the team’s winning of the European Cup in 1989.

Maradona led Argentina to football glory in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, the tournament in which the golden boy scored the most famous two goals in his career. The first was in the quarter-final against England, in which he scored the controversial “Hand of God” which is still discussed today. His second goal was “The Goal of the Century”, when he raced past six players, including the goalkeeper, to clinch Argentina’s World Cup title.

Kobe Bryant tragedy shakes America

The year began with the announcement of the departure of American basketball star Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash.  On 26 January, US media announced Bryant’s death, at the age of 41, during a helicopter crash in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Also killed in the tragic accident were his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others.

Bryant won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, in a career that spanned over 20 years from 1996 to 2016. He was won Olympic gold with the US team in 2008 and 2012.

Germany’s Dietrich Weitza

Germany’s Dietrich Weitza, former coach of Al Ahly and the Egyptian national team, has passed away at the age of 86. Weitza coached Al Ahly in the 1988/89 season, before going on to coach the national team in the 1990/1991 season.

In just one season, he became a favourite with Al Ahly fans, after he presented one of the best seasons in the team’s history. He led the team to League and Cup competition titles, as well as to the Afro-Asian Cup title at the expense of the Japanese team Yomiuri Tokyo Verdy.

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