The Best Egyptian Footballer that isn’t Mo Salah
Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan was just nine in 2004, when his school football coach noticed a resemblance to one of the game’s biggest stars. Hassan scored more goals than anybody else that term and was awarded the nickname Trézéguet, after Juventus’ World Cup-winning French striker.
He’s been known by the pseudonym ever since. “It made me stand out,” he recently exclaimed. “But I don’t feel any pressure.” Nicknames are a staple of Egyptian football – unsurprising in squads with so many Mohameds, Mahmouds and Ahmeds. Veteran striker Mahmoud Abdel Razek is better known as Shikabala, while his Zamalek strike partner Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim Soliman is widely known as Kahraba, Arabic for “electricity”. Kouka, aka Ahmed Hassan Mahgoub Abdelmoneim, is so named for his love of Coca-Cola.
Trézéguet’s self-styled calmness shows: it helped carry him, and the Egyptian national team, for which he has won 29 caps, to this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. There, most headlines were devoted to Trézéguet’s goal-machine teammate Mohamed Salah, who may just be the best player on earth right now.
Liverpool forward Salah has no such moniker. It was he who scored Egypt’s 94th-minute winning penalty against Congo in Cairo, sending Egyptian football fans into raptures – and their first finals tournament since 1990. But Trézéguet won the spot kick. And as European clubs clamour for the hardworking midfielder’s signature, fans of The Pharaohs may soon have to focus their adoration on two global superstars instead of just one.
Born in the small Nile Delta city of Kafr el Sheikh, in 2004, Trézéguet spent his entire youth career at Cairene club Al Ahly. In 2016 he secured a move to Belgian giants Anderlecht. But the wiry and charismatic attacker failed to win a starting spot, and he was shipped out to strugglers Mouscron.
Mouscron would be relegated that year. But Trézéguet, a direct player with a thumping, long-range strike, won plaudits. Last season he was loaned to Istanbul’s Kasimpasa, where he scored 13 goals in 31 matches for the Apaches, a record for an Egyptian in Turkey’s top flight.
A successful 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, at which Egypt finished runners-up to Cameroon, cemented Trézéguet’s place among football’s rising stars. And while Egypt’s Russian campaign fizzled disappointingly without a single point, Trézéguet is allegedly the target of clubs including Internazionale, Sevilla and Marseille – despite signing a four-year contract with Kasimpasa just five months ago. Wherever he goes, he is sure to become an even bigger star back home.
“At the 2018 World Cup, Egyptians didn't see much of Trézéguet,” says Mohamed Khairat, editor-in-chief of Egyptian Streets magazine. “But it is clear potential exists and that, possibly with the right support and team, he will excel and capture the imagination of more young Egyptian children.
“Egypt isn't a one-man, or woman, country,” he adds. “Mo Salah has managed to capture the hearts and minds of everyday Egyptians. But that doesn't mean others are incapable of doing so as well. For Trézéguet, his biggest challenge will be not to prove himself in Turkey, Italy or wherever else he goes, but to prove himself in Egypt.”