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Ahmed Hamdy - A Debut To Inspire

The Egyptian u23 international put down a marker in 30 debut minutes against the Crew...

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at CF Montreal
Ahmed Hamdy (left) cruises past Artur of Columbus Crew during an impressive first outing in Montreal colours...
Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

As thirty minute debuts go, it was a pretty good one.

There were no goals, nor an assist either, but in the closing third of the game the introduction of Ahmed Hamdy certainly elevated the tempo for a Montreal side toiling in 31 degree temperatures.

It was also the period in the game when Wil Nancy’s men looked likeliest to conjure a goal.

The Egyptian was forceful, intent on making driving forward runs and showed no little skill on one occasion, wrong-footing Abdul-Salaam with a neat flick on the edge of the box before crossing for Quioto who headed over.

If there are similarities to a previous Impact player, it would have to be Blerim Dzemaili. And should Hamdy’s talent match that of the Swiss and his attitude not, then reason certainly exists for optimism.

There was palpable change following his introduction, supported by fellow substitute Lassi Lappalainen.

I’d heard good things about the former Al-Ahly midfielder, who I understand can perform a number of roles in the team’s engine room; box to box, holding and creator as well. Saturday’s evidence didn’t cast doubt on any of that, and left Montreal fans gasping for more!

He looked solid in pre-season training, despite being a few weeks behind the rest due to covid-quarantining, although he did play in four Egyptian Premier League games in January.

I’d been looking forward to our first glimpse of this player and I wasn’t disappointed. Head coach Nancy is quite right though when he says, “We have to be calm. This was only 30 minutes.”

United States of America U23 v Egypt U23 - International Friendly
International duty - Hamdy comes face to face with USA’s Donovan Pines during an u23 international in Murcia, Spain two years ago.
Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

There are impact players (no pun intended), those who are most effective coming off the bench as we saw on Saturday. Yet Hamdy looks more than that, but of course time will tell.

There aren’t so many Egyptians playing abroad in major leagues. They have a reputation of being traditionally poor travellers, Mo Salah an obvious exception. Even Hossam Hossan top international scorer with 68 goals for the country, only stuck around in Greece and Switzerland for two years and 27 league games, despite once famously scoring four times in a UEFA Cup match against Scotland’s Celtic.

That was all about thirty years ago, and even now the current Egyptian international squad is overwhelmingly made up of home-based players.

Ironically should Hamdy establish himself in Will Nancy’s side it’s almost certain Montreal will be robbed of his services for a few weeks come the latter half of July. That’s when the Olympic football tournament is due to begin. Egypt succeeded, qualifying efficiently, where Canada and the USA had failed.

Upon leaving his Egyptian club El Gouna to come to north America, Hamdy said, “I will do everything I can in the upcoming period to participate in the Tokyo Olympics.” You would expect nothing less.

The 23-year-old first joined Egypt’s largest and most celebrated club, Al-Ahly, as an 8-year-old in 2006, was training with the first team by 16, and made his senior debut a year later. That was six years ago.

Not everything has run smoothly since. There is always fierce competition for places at a club like Al-Ahly and with many established players, Hamdy was allowed to move on to El Gouna, initially on loan. But eventually a fee of EGP 8m (US$500k) with a buy-back option for Al-Ahly and a 30% sell-on clause* secured his permanent transfer.

(* note: source of information lists the player’s move to El Gouna as a free transfer)

Throughout his career there has been European interest, although Hamdy was left frustrated after prospective deals with Udinese (Serie A), SC Braga (Portuguese Primera Division) and Rubin Kazan (Russian Premier League) all broke down.

Venezuela v Chile - South American Qualifiers for Qatar 2022
Jose Peseiro was so impressed by Hamdy as a young player at Al-Ahly, he went back and tried to sign him after becoming boss of Portugal’s Sporting Braga.
Photo by Federico Parra - Pool/Getty Images

His former coach at Al-Ahly, the Portuguese Jose Peseiro tried to sign him when he took over control at Braga. A former Porto coach and now the national team manager of Venezuela, Peseiro said, “At that time Al Ahly had a lot of good players and some of them were important players in the national team. But I thought that Hamdy had a lot potential and could’ve had good career but I didn’t know what happened to him.

“And when I went to coach Braga I tried to sign him. Maybe if I was in Egypt I could analyze the situation and understand why he doesn’t play, all that I can say is that he’s a very talented player,” concluded Peseiro.

Olivier Renard may well have unearthed another one of those nuggets upon which the Montreal Sporting Director built his European reputation. All will inevitably become apparent as 2021 unfolds.

Montreal’s timing and judgement will be critical. Should their new #7 play a starring role (and possibly have a good Olympics) his value is bound to increase, or perhaps whet El Gouna’s appetite to take him back at the end of his season-long north American loan.

Check out the latest, The Ball Is Round Podcast (Episode 27). Recorded Wednesday evening, the TBIR team discusses the upcoming CFM v Columbus Crew clash (with special guest Darby Schnarfus, former anchorman of ACES Radio), looks back on the 2-2 draw with Nashville SC... and addresses names in the news; Zach Brault-Guillard, Chicharito, Jesse Marsch & Thierry Henry...

They talk the Montreal football issues of the week and cover all the usual favourite features... including, Eve’s Time Machine Social Media & CHOICES... Don’t miss it!

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