CAIRO: Mohamed El-Nenny is one of Egypt’s most prominent footballers abroad, who left the local club of Arab Contractors to join FC Basel. He has developed his skills significantly since moving to Switzerland and contributed his teams winning of the Swiss league twice, in addition to his continuing participation in the Champions League and the Europa League.
Below is a translation of his interview with Youm7.
Y7: How did you start your journey with Switzerland’s Basel?
Nenny: The beginning was really smooth, thanks to a friend who is like a brother to me, Mohamed Salah, who played in the same team. Also, I have been supported by all Basel’s officials; they made me feel at home. I depended on myself a lot to cope with the European ways.
Y7: How did you feel when Salah moved from Basel to Chelsea F.C.?
Nenny: I sensed that officials at Basel were worried I’d move to another club, and that was another challenge in my career. What facilitated my mission is that everybody told me “here in Switzerland, there are 11 players, they are all Mohamed Salah and we are all by your side.”
Y7: Did you face any communication barriers due to the language?
Nenny: I left the Arab Contractors SC not speaking any other language [but Arabic.] Salah was acting as an interpreter between me and them. But when he moved to Chelsea, I began to learn English and it contributed to developing my relations with everyone at Basel, whether with the management or the technical staff.
Y7: What about rumors of conflicts between you and Salah during the most recent training camp of Egypt’s national football team?
Nenny: These rumors are ironic because that period was one of the best in my relationship with Salah. We shared one room at the training camp although he prefers to share one with Ahmed al-Shenawy. The only period where our communication slimmed down was when he moved to Chelsea, and that is because of the bad luck he went through, especially in playing as a substitute. I was keen on checking on him in spaced intervals, and maybe that was negligence on my part, but my viewpoint was that he must have been focused on proving his worth to wear the shirt of the blues. Since he moved to ACF Fiorentina and shined again, our communication has strengthened as it was in the beginning.
Y7: Are you ignored in the media?
Nenny: I can’t say so. But when Salah was in Basel, the [Egyptian] fans reduced our experience with the Swiss team to him only and neglected what I offered to the club. Everybody focuses on who scores the goals, which is not weird because it happens all over the world. For example, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta have been fundamental pillars at FC Barcelona in recent years, but Lionel Messi is the one who picks the fruits and receives golden awards as the best player in the world.
Y7: Who has helped you in your career?
Nenny: The presence of my wife before and after playing abroad has contributed a lot, she is a good lluck charm. My advice to players is to get married before joining European leagues; having a wife by your side makes being far from home easier, and you feel like you’re still in Egypt. Besides, your concentration would be focused only on the pitch.
Y7: What are your ambitions in Europe?
Nenny: First of all, everyone will be surprised to hear that I don’t know how to plan for myself to begin with. But I can say that as long as I work hard and strive, I will achieve all my dreams.
Y7: Have you received any European or local offers?
Nenny: I have several offers that I cannot currently disclose. During the transfer window in the summer, I will discuss the offers with my agent and will choose the best. As for local offers, I understand the question, but I rule out returning to Egypt and refuse any local offers, whatever their scale, for I still have a lot of dreams to accomplish in Europe.
Y7: What about moving to the English League?
Nenny: The Premier League is a big dream for any player, and I hope to move there one day. But I am entirely focused on finishing the season with Basil outstandingly, and then I will think about offers from any other clubs.
Y7: What about the national football team?
Nenny: Presently, I find that everyone from the technical staff, players, officials and the media rally strongly behind one goal, which is getting the team back to its status. This makes me very happy, especially when I see the masses supporting us on streets and hotels.
Y7: Why did the experiences of Bob Bradley and Shawqi Gharib fail with the present generation of footballers?
Nenny: I can’t evaluate these experiences, but in my point of view, they did not remiss in the national team, but we just weren’t lucky. In the beginning, we were at a good pace with Bradley, but the match with Ghana sentenced him to failure.
Y7: Can Héctor Cúper make a boom?
Nenny: Cúper’s advantage is that I feel he is an Egyptian like us. He has an unusual desire to reach the 2018 World Cup to realize the dream of the masses, just like the players themselves. Also, unlike previous phases, the media supports us now.
Y7: What is the difference between the team of Hassan Shehata and the current generation?
Nenny: Hassan Shehata’s team won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006, 2008 and 2010 and is one of the greatest football generations in Egypt’s history. The current generation has not been able to make any achievement to its credit. So, we can’t compare now, and everyone should not ask for achievements quickly because we’re are working hard and striving to accomplish the desired goal of the players. We only need the fans to back us, because we aren’t so different from the 2006 generation.
Y7: Do you follow the Egyptian League?
Nenny: Yes, I follow some matches and have followed the resumption of the league this season after it was halted and life was back to normal in Egyptian pitches. Competitions are a source of happiness for all players.
Y7: What club do you support?
Nenny: I do not support Al-Ahly SC or Zamalek SC, I only like to see my colleagues for the strong relations I have with them and watch the matches to follow the updates of the Egyptian football.
Y7: Who keeps in touch with you?
Nenny: All the players, like Bassem Ali, Bassem Morsi, Loai Wael, Ibrahim Salah, Amr el-Soulia, Ahmed Hassan known as Kouka, Mahmoud Abdel Moneim known as Kahraba and Hussein Sayed known as Marcelo.
Y7: What about your relationship with Mohamed Aboutrika and Bradley?
Nenny: I really fall short of contacting Aboutrika, he always contacts me on Twitter and motivates me to offer the best I have at European pitches. I used to contact Bradley over Whatsapp but we have not been in touch for six months. He always talked to me about showing my skills at the Champions League and the Europa League.
Interview by Amr Gaballah, translation by Hanan Fayed