JOHANNESBURG - Egyptian forward Amr Gamal hasn’t given up on sneaking into the Pharaohs’ World Cup squad even though he failed to make the 28-man preliminary squad.
Gamal is, however, on stand-by as he was part of the 35-man provisional squad. Egypt coach Hector Cuper has until Monday to finalise his 23-man squad.
“The final list hasn’t been sent so I still have hope,” Gamal, formerly of Bidvest Wits, said at the Sandton Convention Centre this week after being named Telkom Knockout Player of the Tournament.
Egypt and most of Africa are holding thumbs for Mohamed Salah to be fit for the World Cup after suffering a shoulder injury in the colours of Liverpool in the Uefa Champions League final against Real Madrid in Ukraine last Saturday.
“Salah is the best player in Egypt and the world at the moment,” Gamal said. “We depend on Salah a lot. I know that Salah has a strong mentality and is a strong man. He is a fighter. He will be back stronger.
"Salah means a lot to us. He also motivates me because we are in the same age group. Salah is a big example for a lot of us. With him, we will do good things in the World Cup. And I hope to play the first game in the World Cup. I hope.”
Gamal’s desire to play in the World Cup united him with Wits coach Gavin Hunt at first but it also drove a wedge between the 26-year-old and the four-time league winning coach.
Gamal started on a promising note at Wits on loan from Al-Ahly. He looked good with his clever runs and skills around the box. But he started getting desperate to please Cuper as he went down the pecking order.
“I started thinking that I have to go to Europe before the World Cup so that I am in a good position to be in the Egypt squad that’ll go to the World Cup,” Gamal said. “That messed with my concentration.”
Hunt picked it up and he dropped Gamal. The Egyptian sulked and Hunt wasn’t having any of it, warning Gamal that with his attitude he was “spitting on two people, me and him, but him more because he’s got a World Cup to go to".
The sulking must have worked with Gamal eventually moving away from Wits to join HJK Helsinki in Finland. “I had an offer from Europe and we started talking about the offer. Maybe it was bad timing considering what was happening to Wits (as they flirted with relegation)," Gamal said.
"That’s when the misunderstanding happened between me and the coach. That’s all. He thought that I wasn’t focused on the team but that wasn’t true. Before I came to Wits, I was at Al-Ahly and they didn’t want me to go on loan. But I wanted a new challenge.”
Gamal continued: “I asked Al-Ahly a lot of time to go on loan and during that moment I played all the games for Al-Ahly because they knew that I could concentrate on the game.
"They knew I wanted a different challenge but they understood that I was concentrating on the job at hand. Maybe the mentality and culture is different here. Maybe I made a mistake.
"But I have to thank Wits because they gave me a chance to come here. Even though my time here was short, I loved the country and the people. I would love to come back here for sure.”