Egypt’s biggest side outside the capital Cairo, Ismaily has a long and proud tradition of producing talented players. However, as well as some famous graduates that have graced top sides in Egypt and beyond, the club is also renowned for its distinctive yellow and blue strip – a combination that has earned them the nickname ‘The Egyptian Samba Boys’.
The club’s other moniker, Al-daraweesh, was first coined in the sixties when they had several famous players of this name in their ranks, among them Mimi Darweesh, Amiru Darweesh and Mustafa Darweesh.
Birth of an institution
The club was founded in 1924 in Ismailia, a city in Egypt’s north-east on the banks of the Suez Canal. Originally named Al Nahda, its simple dirt pitch and modest single stand owed much to the donations and selfless efforts of local citizens and businesses. In 1926 it officially became a member of the Egyptian Football Association and became a symbol of resistance and considerable national pride at a time when the country was occupied by the British.
In 1943 Al-daraweesh moved to their current ground and would go on to compete in the inaugural league championship organised by the Egyptian FA in 1948. However, it would be another 19 years before they tasted championship success and lifted the first of their three Egyptian League Shields.
Two years later in 1969, the club made history by becoming the first Arab team to win the CAF Champions League after beating TP Englebert of Congo DR 5-3 over two legs.
Over the years the Osman family, one of the country’s oldest, have become synonymous with Ismaily football club. In the 1960s Osman Ahmed Osman took over the presidency on the players’ request and brought in their first foreign coach, the Englishman Jordon Thomson, who successfully guided them to the aforementioned league title and African championship.
In the mid 90s the Osman family ties were rekindled when Ismail Osman, a nephew of the 1960s president, assumed the same position, ushering in another golden era for the club. Between 1997 and 2002, Al-daraweesh picked up three major trophies: the Egyptian Cup twice and the League Shield. The belief that the Osman name was a propitious one for Ismaily gained further credence when Ismail’s departure in 2004 coincided with the start of their recent trophy drought.
Another name interwoven throughout the club’s history is that of Abou Greisha, one of the biggest footballing and sporting families in Egypt. In the 1930s and 40s there were six Abou Greisha brothers in the team and when they won their first title in 1967 Said Abou Greisha was the team manager. Moreover, when France Football magazine created the African Footballer of the Year award in 1970, Ali Abou Greisha was listed joint second behind Salif Keita.
Coached by Emad Suleiman, Al-daraweesh currently occupy fourth place in the Egyptian Premier league. The 2008/09 season witnessed a titanic struggle between Ismaily and Al Ahly for the league title, with a play-off required to separate the sides at the end of the campaign. There was to be no fairytale ending for Ismaily, however, with their Cairo rivals claiming the silverware in Alexandria with a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
This season the Samba Boys are once again gracing the CAF Champions League, where they enjoyed a promising start with a 3-1 win over Tamponnaise 3-1. The second leg is to be played on 3 April.
The Ismaily Stadium was opened in 1943 and has a capacity of approximately 20,000.