Shehata no longer coach of Egypt

The Egyptian Football Association has parted company with coach

Hassan Shehata, a day after a shock 0-0 draw against South Africa

all but ended any hope of defending its African Cup of Nations

title.

”The two parties agreed on ending contract of the coaching

staff for Egypt national team under the leadership of Hassan

Shehata,” the association said in a brief statement on its

website.

Egypt has won the last three editions of the African Cup of

Nations under Shehata, who was the country’s longest serving coach

and who took his team to a high of ninth in the rankings.

But in recent months, the team has struggled to score goals and

faces the very real prospect of failing to qualify for the

tournament for the first time in 33 years. Its ranking has

meanwhile fallen to 36th.

Sunday’s draw left Egypt bottom of Group G with just two points

from four games, a full six points behind leader South Africa with

two games to go. It also stands little chance of qualifying as one

of the best second-place teams.

The poor showing by one of Africa’s dominant teams left fans

angry, with many taking to social media sites like Twitter to vent

their frustrations. Another 500 gathered outside the offices of the

FA on Monday calling for Shehata’s resignation and that of all the

board members.

Shehata has been rumored for months to be on the way out partly

due to his team’s performance but also because he was a close ally

of former president Hosni Mubarak who was forced from office Feb.

11 following 18 days of anti-government protests.

The former star striker nicknamed ”the master” led rallies for

Mubarak in early February and has never been shy about flouting his

close connection to the former ”presidential family.”

During his six years in charge, Mubarak’s two sons Alaa and

Gamal often showed their support with heavily publicized visits to

Shehata and his players during training sessions for African

campaigns. They also traveled abroad with the team for important

fixtures.

”It gives me power. I am not going to deny it,” the

62-year-old Shehata said last year. ”But they don’t interfere in

the team’s business. They are patriots who rally behind the

flag.”

He became a star across Egypt during his tenure, appearing on

billboards and in advertising campaigns hawking everything from

cell phones to an American bank.

But as the political winds shifted, the normally confident

Shehata sensed his days were numbered. He seemed increasingly

frustrated in recent weeks with the constant criticism of him and

the links fans were making between the team and Mubarak’s National

Democratic Party.

”I’m very unhappy with what is going on. The atmosphere is

corrupt and it is very difficult to work in such circumstances,”

Shehata told a local newspaper in May. ”This corrupt atmosphere is

mainly down to some media personnel and football analysts, who have

a very negative influence on Egyptian football.”

Angry fans were quick to play up the Mubarak link on Twitter as

word spread about Shehata’s departure.

”News Alert, Egyptian president to receive the national team in

Sharm el-Sheikh,” one tweet read, in a reference to the Red Sea

resort city where Mubarak has been hospitalized and under detention

since April on charges of conspiracy in the killing the protesters

during the uprising and of corruption.

Not everyone has blamed Shehata, however, with former

association head Youssef el-Dahshouri accusing what he described as

a group of aging players being the sole reason for the team’s

struggles.

”Dissolving the coaching staff will not solve the problem,” he

said. ”The team will be doomed to fail in any tournament because

of the players’ age.”