A one-club hero, Mahmoud El Khatib spent his entire playing career with Cairo giants Al Ahly and is seen by many as the best player Egypt has ever produced. FIFA.com looks back at the legendary striker’s career, which included numerous highlights, among them the 1983 African Footballer of the Year award.
The early days
El Khatib’s passion for football began at an early age. As a young boy he would spend his pocket money at the local cinema, where he sat entranced watching his Brazilian idol Pele in action. Inspired by the feats of the No10, the young Bibo vowed that he would one day wear the same number on his shirt, a dream it would not take him long to fulfil.
His rise to stardom began while he was playing for the U-17 team at Al Nasr. Scoring twice in a 2-2 draw against Al Ahly, the young Mahmoud caught the eye of the opposition’s coaching staff. Alerted to his ability, the directors of the famous Cairo club began to trail the promising 16-year-old and by the time he hit another brace in the next meeting between the two sides - a 5-2 defeat for Al Nasr - Al Ahly were ready to make their offer. It was 1971, and over the next decade and a half the bright-eyed youngster would help his club land a rich haul of trophies.
His debut in the red and white of Al Ahly came against his old team-mates. Showing them no mercy, the new boy scored all four goals in a comprehensive 4-0 win, going on to end the season as the leading marksman in the U-17 league. Impressed by his goalscoring feats, Al Ahly’s first-team coach drafted him into the squad at the start of the 1972/73 season.
The road to glory
El Khatib made his debut for the Cairo heavyweights in the second week of the following season, and by the time the next campaign came around he had established himself as the side’s spearhead, striking 22 goals to fire Al Ahly to the Egyptian league title. Bibo followed up by top-scoring with 14 goals the season after, a tally that included two goals in two vital wins over fierce city rivals Zamalek as they landed the championship again. The Red Devils dominated the league for a third consecutive season in 1976/77, with the prolific El Khatib once again outscoring his team-mates, this time with ten goals.
In his 16 years at the club he won ten league crowns and five Egyptian cups and also wrote his name in the history books by hitting 37 goals in 49 appearances in African club competitions, a record that has not been bettered in the 22 years since his retirement. He also helped Al Ahly lift the African Cup of Champions Clubs (since renamed the CAF Champions League) in 1982 and 1987, and the African Cup Winners’ Cup in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
El Khatib made his international debut in 1974 and captained Egypt at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984, scoring a superb goal in a 4-1 defeat of Costa Rica in Los Angeles as the north Africans advanced to the second round for the first time since Tokyo 1964.
Bowing out in style
El Khatib had long dreamed of leading his country to glory in the African Cup of Nations on home soil, an ambition he had the opportunity to fulfil when Egypt hosted the tournament in 1986. Scoring twice during the competition, he made what would be his last appearance for his country in the final against Cameroon. Happily for Bibo, his international career ended on the highest of notes, with the Egyptians prevailing 5-4 on penalties after the game had ended goalless.
Some two years after calling it a day with Egypt, the national idol played his last game for his club, bringing an end to a 17-year career in which he received a mere two yellow cards, proof that as well as being a great goalscorer, he was also a great ambassador for the game.