Zidan revels in right decision

In 2006, Mohamed Zidan chose club over country and missed out on Egypt’s Africa Cup of Nations win in Cairo.

Fast forward two years to Accra on Sunday and the Hamburg striker was right in the thick of the Pharoahs’ successful title defence.

Zidan set up Mohamed Aboutraika for the decisive 77th-minute goal in the 1-0 victory over Cameroon which clinched a record sixth African crown for the men from the Nile.

“It was a hard decision choosing my club and missing the title in Cairo,” said the striker whose goal against Cameroon in the opening round was nominated as the best of the competition.

“I had the same difficult decision to make this time as I’ve recently moved to Hamburg and had to decide whether to stay with them or help my country.

“I decided to help Egypt as I wanted to experience that feeling of being champion,” Zidan said after picking up his winner’s medal from Ghana’s President John Kufour.

“It’s an honour to be a member of this team, it’s the strongest side in Africa.

“We’ve shown how to keep our balance and fight for each other. Just look at our semifinal win over the Ivory Coast. They were favourites but when you fight for each other you can make things come true.

“We are living our dream now.”

Egypt’s goal hero Aboutraika suggested winning away from home made Sunday’s success all the sweeter.

“To win the title for a second time is amazing, and it makes it especially good that we’ve done it abroad, far from our country and our people.
To make them happy back home is special.”

Asked to compare the class of 2006 with the class of 2008, the Al-Ahly midfielder observed: “We had a good team two years ago but now it’s developed a lot. We’ve got players with more experience, international experience with the team, and we’ve got some important players like Hosny Abd Rabou, Zidan, Essam al-Hadary, Ahmed Hassan and myself. That gives the side confidence and power.”

Aboutraika must have had a sense of déjà vu when he slotted past Cameroon keeper Carlos Kameni in the 77th minute as it was his converted spot-kick that did it for the Ivorians in the penalty shoot-out in Cairo.

His exploits at Accra’s Ohene Djan Stadium earned him the man of the match award, but he insisted modestly: “I scored the winning goal so I get the man of the match but it’s not one man who won this evening, it’s the whole team. We won the title together, we are one team.

“And it’s fantastic to have 80-million people back in Egypt sharing this feeling in their hearts, it’s nice to be the cause of all this joy.”

Egypt’s goal was triggered by a defensive slip-up by Cameroon captain Rigobert Song but his teammate Geremi jumped to his skipper’s defence.

“First I’d like to say that we’re all disappointed. Secondly in football when someone makes a mistake it concerns all the team. You can’t blame Rigobert, it happens.

“Me, Samuel Eto’o and Rigobert are really disappointed as this would have been our third title [after 2000 and 2002].”

“Football is improving in Africa. We’ve had many big players in the competition, that’s why the quality has been so high,” said the Newcastle star. ‒ Sapa-AFP

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