Football lovers in the Arab world have been treated to a 2010 packed with incident, as FIFA.com now recaps with a look back over 12 memorable months.
The region enjoyed the brightest possible start to the year as Egypt secured the African crown for the third time in succession and seventh overall in January. The Pharaohs defended their CAF African Cup of Nations title thanks to a 1-0 win over Ghana in the final, Mohamed ‘Gedo’ Nagy hitting the decider to cement his reputation as one of the most prominent players in the competition. Nagy did not start a single match in Angola but his feats as a super-sub helped the defending champions win all six of their outings to restate their pedigree as the dominant side on the continent.
Egypt also monopolised the individual accolades, with Nagy leaving as top scorer and named discovery of the tournament, veteran No1 Essam El Hadary declared best goalkeeper, Wael Gomaa chosen as best defender and Ahmed Fathy scooping the fair play prize. In fact, Egypt completed a clean sweep as Ahmed Hassan was voted player of the tournament, having earlier passed Hossam Hassan’s record of 170 caps for the Pharaohs. The midfielder can likewise pride himself on having been proclaimed CAF Best Africa-based Player for 2010 last week.
Egypt’s performance was reflected in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking too, and the team which ended 2009 in 24th spot climbed as high as tenth in February. It was only the second time an Arab side had ever reached the top ten, Morocco having blazed that trail in 1998, but even greater heights awaited four months later as Egypt broke new ground for an Arab nation by rising to ninth.
Fellow African team Algeria were the other major headline grabbers in 2010 as they carried the torch for the Arab world at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Despite a disappointing campaign that ended with elimination at the first hurdle and just a single point on the board, Les Fennecs (Desert Foxes) nonetheless radiated both youth and promise, not least during their meeting with England. Despite countless forays forward from Wayne Rooney and Co, Rabah Saadane’s men held firm to seal a famous draw.
In Asia, meanwhile, the year undoubtedly belonged to Kuwait, who ended their maiden West Asian Football Federation Championship campaign with the title courtesy of a 2-1 victory against holders Iran in the showpiece game. They also triumphed in the Gulf Cup of Nations, where they defeated Saudi Arabia in the final to win the competition for the tenth time in its 20th edition.
In the club game, results generally failed to match expectations at the highest level in both Africa and Asia. Disappointment beckoned for Esperance in the CAF Champions League as they slumped to a 6-1 aggregate reverse against Congo DR side TP Mazembe in the final – a result that denied the Tunisian outfit a fourth major African trophy. As for the AFC equivalent, Arab hopes were riding on Saudi Arabian clubs Al Hilal and Al Shabab, but both succumbed to 1-0 defeats at the last-four stage, losing to Iranian team Zob Ahan and Korea Republic contenders Seongnam respectively.
It was not all doom and gloom, however, as Arab sides experienced significant success in the cup competitions, with FUS Rabat leading the way by lifting the CAF Confederations Cup for the first time after a 3-2 win over Tunisian rivals Sfaxien in the final. Further to the east, Syrian outfit Al Ittihad claimed the seventh edition of the AFC Cup by seeing off Kuwaiti side Al Qadisiya 4-2 on penalties at the end of a 1-1 stalemate.
Despite those achievements on the pitch, the stand-out event of the year for Arab football took place in a Zurich conference centre as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter revealed that Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The announcement sparked widespread joy throughout the Arab world, with the diminutive peninsula in the Persian Gulf now set to become the first Arab state to organise world football’s premier tournament. Celebrations went on until dawn as euphoria rippled through the streets, but it was pride that dominated above all as revellers reflected on the impressive bid put together by Qatar, a small country with immense potential.
Share your memories of all these episodes and any others that lit up the football landscape in the Arab world by clicking on ‘Add your comment’ below.