Egyptian international striker Amr Zaki has officially signed on a loan deal to Hull City from Egyptian side El Zamelek. The deal, which holds until the end of the season, looks like a shrewd signing for the Tigers. At just a measly 20 league goals, Hull city are the fourth lowest scoring team in the premiership, narrowly edging out Stoke City, Portsmouth and Wolves. Their league position reflects their inability to score, as they sit in the 18th spot, entrenched in what appears to be a long, arduous relegation battle.
Zaki is a proven goal scorer, netting 10 in 29 league appearances for Wigan in the 2008-09 season, and this could be exactly what Phil Brown needs to get his team out of drop zone and save his managerial position. Additionally, Hull City could be losing some of their strikers this January window, as chairman of the club Adam Pearson has asked Brown to shed nine million pounds from the wage bill. Brown has admitted this likely means allowing strikers Caleb Folan and Daniel Cousin to leave.
However, all this ignores his myriad of disgusting off the field issues. Zaki has proved from his spell at Wigan he has no commitment to the team. On four separate occasions, he failed to return to Wigan by the scheduled deadline after an international break , infuriating then Wigan boss Steve Bruce. Not only does this violate team rules, but, as Zaki had no connection with the club, he violated the FA’s doping policy that requires players to state their whereabouts one hour each day. Moreover, international and club teammate Mido returned to England in time for the deadline.
Zaki then complained that he was getting treatment for a hamstring injury. When asked to provide a note from Egyptian team doctors, he refused. When asked to show up to the club’s doctors for a scan and assessment, he refused again.
All this prompted Bruce is to say, “I really am at the end of my tether with him. Before this latest incident, Zaki had already been fined considerably more than the average person in Britain earns in a year and he will now face another heavy fine.” He continues, “I just feel it’s time that we went public on just what a nightmare he has been to deal with because I can honestly say that in all my time in football I have never worked with someone as unprofessional.”
Unfortunately, this is the least worrisome of his issues.
After Bruce understandably ruled out extending the deal, Zaki turned elsewhere for loans. Portsmouth was the first and most appealing option to reveal interest over the summer. Much like the Hull, Pompey struggles to find the back of the net and, on paper, a deal made sense. After a brief courtship, the player refused a transfer on the sickening grounds that he could not play with Pompey’s Jewish and Algerian players, Tal Ben Haim and Nadir Belhadj.
He is quoted as saying, “I refused their offer before, but now joining Portsmouth is no longer an option for me. After Portsmouth signed an Israeli player and also hired an Israeli football director [Avram Grant], a possible move was ruled out. On top of that, no way could I play at Portsmouth with an Algerian within their ranks.” Since the quote, Portsmouth have added another Algerian, Hassan Yebda, and promoted Avram Grant to gaffer, so one can only imagine what Zaki has to say about it now.
The most disappointing aspect of this whole thing, beyond the discouraging realization that prejudice, discrimination, and antisemitism are still so prevalent in society today, is that it completely undermines FIFA and the FA’s Football Against Racism in Europe campaign, launched back in Vienna in 1999. Plastered around the premiership grounds are billboards bearing FIFA’s slogan of “Say no to Racism.” It is such a cornerstone of FIFA policy that the EA Sports crew have even included it in their FIFA video games.
This is the same slogan that Zaki himself held up before every single international match with his Egyptian side. What kind of message does that send? How can anyone watching a Hull City game take that billboard seriously when they see as bigoted a human being as Amr Zaki playing on the pitch in front of the slogan? How can anyone take it seriously when one of the top flight teams in England vigorously pursues this player, knowing full well his prejudiced views? How are we supposed to look at the FA’s attempts to quell racism with supporters when they turn a blind eye towards racism in players?
It’s a depressing situation and one that hopefully the FA addresses head on one way or another, rather than beating around the bush. While it may be unfair to root against Hull, I’ll certainly be rooting against Amr Zaki.