JOHANNESBURG - Amr Gamal, the new Wits signing from Egyptian club Al Ahly, will witness the physical side of South African football when the Clever Boys travel to plucky Free State Stars on Wednesday looking for their first win in the PSL.
Although Gamal, who arrives on loan for a season with an option for Wits to sign him on a permanent basis, will not feature as he is still awaiting his international transfer certificate before he can get stuck in, it’s likely that he will watch what coach Gavin Hunt expects to be a “real fight down there” when Wits take on their bogey side.
Hunt’s men have only beaten Stars once in five years at the Goble Park Stadium in Bethlehem, finding it increasingly difficult to beat them in their own backyard as evidenced by the 3-1 defeat suffered there in the final weeks of last season, a result which almost derailed their title hopes.
“I think everybody knows as well as I do that it’s not really a football match there,” said Hunt. “It’s a real fight down there, and all credit to them. But we have got to match that.
"If we match that, with our ability we will have a better chance. I am not saying we haven’t gone down there and had a fight, but we have been a little bit unfortunate sometimes, as it doesn’t bounce for you here and there.
“Last season they beat us, but we beat them by about 20 to 25 points over the course of 30 (league) games. We have to make sure we do what we have got to do. And every time we have gone to play them there it’s been at the back end of the season. This one is early, but I don’t think it makes a difference because they will still be up for us.”
Hunt will still be serving his suspension following his red card from the dugout in the ill-tempered MTN8 quarter-final clash at home against Golden Arrows 10 days ago.
“It’s not easy,” said the coach, who anxiously watched from the stands when Wits lost 1-0 to Cape Town City at Bidvest Stadium last Friday in their PSL opener.
“Everything has been relayed to Paul (Johnstone, the assistant coach), but there are certain situations where you see something and you want to make a change. But we should have enough experience in our squad to play out the game situation as best as we can. It is difficult to discus a shape change when you see one. Maybe it’s a good thing I am not on the bench at Goble Park, something different to change our luck.”
Meanwhile Wits chief executive Jose Ferreira has revealed he initially had doubts whether Gamal would eventually join the Clever Boys due to Al Ahly's head coach being reluctant to allow the 26-year-old to leave.
“We should all do ourselves a favour and learn Arabic, because the politics there are incredible. This story was all over the papers in Egypt because of how complex it was to do the deal,” Ferreira said.
Speaking through a translator, Gamal said he’d been following Wits for a while now and was ready to make an immediate impact.
“Wits should be playing in the semi-final or final of the Champions League, that is how good they are. It was unfortunate to meet them in the competition so early (playoffs, to get into the group stage),” said the forward.
“I think South Africa is the best place for me to progress in my career. I had offers from clubs abroad as well, but I turned them down to come to this league.”