Shawky Gharib aiming to shine in Tokyo

  • Coach involved in some of Egypt’s finest feats 

  • Led country’s U-20 to World Cup bronze and seniors to historic AFCON treble with Hassan Shehata 

  • U-23s coach hoping for another Tokyo accomplishment 57 years after first 

It will be a case of déjà vu when Egypt take to the field later this month at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Tokyo, with the Pharaohs having competed in the same tournament in the same city back in 1964. Indeed, that edition holds fond memories for the North African side, who finished fourth in what remains their best performance in the competition.  

Fate decreed that Egypt should return to Tokyo 57 years later, and the man charged with overseeing their campaign will be veteran Egyptian coach Shawky Gharib, a key member of the senior team’s coaching staff during the golden era of 2006 to 2010. Gharib was kind enough to make time for a chat with and explain his goals for the U-23s at the upcoming Olympiad. 

"Our aim is to go as far as possible, especially as our best result in this tournament came at Tokyo 1964, when we finished fourth. We have a solid team, who have prepared well for the Olympics and benefitted from all the resources made available by both the state and our football federation. We find ourselves in a tough group so it’s very difficult to make any predictions. Despite this, our goal is to get through the group stage and go as far as possible," he said. 

Difficult group 

With his side drawn in Group C alongside Spain, Argentina and Australia, the coach is well aware of the task awaiting him.

"We've got a tough group, which includes not only my team as the reigning African champions, but also South American champions Argentina, Spain and Australia, third in the Asian Cup." "We have to take into account that the respective squads will have changed a lot, especially after the postponement of the tournament for a year. The age factor will also play a big role, but judging by the current lists, all the teams playing in Tokyo will have impressively manned squads. The task will be hard for all four teams as there’s very little between us, hence the difficulty in making any predictions," he added. 

Three reinforcements, but no Salah 

Like all participating teams in Tokyo, the Pharaohs have the right to include three overage players in their squad. We asked Gharib what happened with Mohamed Salah and which three players he would be turning to for the tournament. 

"We initially opted for Mohamed Salah, Mohamed El-Shenawy and Ahmed Hegazy, but after Salah withdrew because he was refused permission by his club Liverpool, we called on Mahmoud Hamdi El-Wench. 

"We’ll have experienced players in defence who have participated in the World Cup and the Africa Cup. What’s more, our three overage picks are all senior members of the first team, so we’re hoping they’ll make the difference [in terms of experience and performance]." 

New achievements 

The name 'Shawky Gharib' has a long association with some of Egypt’s finest football feats, including being at the helm of the country’s U-20 side when they took third place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2001. 

Asked about that accomplishment, the coach said: "The 2001 success was due to a generation of players who were prepared superbly and scientifically, and the fact that we played many great games. At the time, we got to play for third place after losing to Ghana, one of the best teams at youth level. By missing the chance to play in a final, we lost out on what would’ve been a huge achievement. The generation that made up that team was considered the best in the history of Egyptian football." 

As well as that 2001 feat, Gharib was also assistant coach to Hassan Shehata, who led Egypt to three consecutive CAF Africa Cup of Nations titles between 2006 and 2010.

"With Hassan Shehata, we formed one family," explained Gharib before adding: "We worked together from 2005 to 2011 with a coaching staff that never changed. We knew what we were doing and contributed to the emergence of several players. I learned a lot from Shehata. We achieved something unprecedented by winning three consecutive Africa Cups without a single defeat in the final phase of those three tournaments. I think it’ll be very difficult for any team to emulate that. The secret to that success is continuous work and adopting a long-term policy." 

Gharib ended our conversation on a positive note, saying: "In Tokyo, I hope to reprise the same emotions experienced in 2001, when we made the podium in Argentina. It’d be great to have a repeat of that 20 years later." 

March 26, 2019 - San Pedro Del Pinatar, Murcia, Spain - Shawky Gharib of Egypt gives instructions during the International Friendly Länderspiel match between Netherlands U23 and Egypt U23 at Pinatar Arena on March 26, 2019 in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain. Netherlands U23 V Egypt U23 - International Friendly PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY - ZUMAn230 20190326_zaa_n230_667 Copyright: xJosexBretonx