Egypt Country Profile

Egypt: The Pharoahs

Record in International Competitions

TournamentAppearancesBest Finish
FIFA World Cup3Round of 16 (1934)
FIFA Confederations Cup2Group Stage (1999, 2009)
Olympics9Fourth Place (1928, 1964)
Africa Cup of Nations24Champions (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010)
Arab Cup of Nations4Champions (1992)
FIFA U-20 World Cup8Third Place (2001)
FIFA U-17 World Cup2Quarter-Finals (1997)
Africa U-20 Cup of Nations15Champions (1981, 1991, 2003, 2013)
Africa U-17 Cup of Nations3Champions (1997)


Football was introduced to Egypt by the British in 1882 and started out as a pursuit for wealthy Egyptians and those in the colonial administration. The first clubs were established in the early 20th century, with al-Sekka al-Hadid (Railway Club) being the first club founded in the Arab World by British and Italian Railway Authority engineers in 1903. Railway Club was soon followed by Cairo-based clubs al-Ahly (“National”), al-Mokhtalat (“Mixed”, a precursor to Zamalek), and al-Tersana (“Arsenal”). A couple of major clubs were formed in Alexandria as well, including al-Ittihad and al-Olympi.

The Egyptian Football Association gained recognition from FIFA in 1923, making it the first African FA to be recognized by the international body. It did not take long for Egypt to make their mark in international football, with a semi-final showing in the 1928 Olympics. As in many African countries, football had major political significance. Before the deposition of King Farouk in 1952, football stadiums served as one of the few locations where ideas and resistance to colonial rule were discussed freely. After Farouk’s deposition, Egyptian football served as a symbol of the nation and its people, as well as a promoter of Pan-Arabism when Gamel Abdel Nasser took power. Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak also saw football as an opportunity to gain popular support, and success in football was vital for promoting political agendas.

Hussein Hegazi: Widely considered the “Father of Egyptian football”, Hegazi played from 1911-1931. Was the first African to play in England and influenced the Zamalek-Ahly rivalry by switching between the teams on multiple occasions.
Mohamed Latif from his time at Glasgow Rangers. Latif was first signed to Zamalek by Hussein Hegazi and represented Egypt at the 1930 and 1934 World Cups. After the completion of his career, Latif became a recognizable voice by being a commentator for nearly 40 years.

The political scene in Egypt and its ties to football have had a permanent impact on the fanbases of clubs and rivalries, none more so than Egypt’s biggest football rivalry, Al Ahly and Zamalek. Ahly (“National”) was formed as a club to promote Egyptian nationalism, being the first Egyptian club to allow Egyptians as members. Meanwhile, Zamalek (known as al-Mokhtalat, or “mixed”) was founded by a Belgian lawyer in Cairo and distinguished itself by allowing membership to Europeans and Egyptians. The beginning of this rivalry in the 1920’s established Al Ahly as a “club of the people” while Zamalek was perceived as the club for the wealthy and foreigners. Once Egypt’s leaders started to embrace Ahly and became public fans of the club, however, Zamalek supporters have argued that now their club is the anti-establishment club by resisting the corruption of the Egyptian government and EFA.

The passion and political background in Egyptian football has turned violent, with no incident more infamous than the 2012 Port Said disaster. In the tense aftermath of president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, a match between Ahly and Port Said-based club Al Masry ended with mass violence in the stadium, resulting in 74 deaths, 72 of which were Ahly fans. Ahly fans maintain, with the support of witness accounts, that the violence occurred because of their political activism and resistance to the regime. The rest of the 2011-12 Egyptian Premier League was canceled due to the tragedy, and domestic football did not return for another year after.

Once the league came back, Egyptian football suffered briefly, but the league is back in full force as one of Africa’s best. The national team has returned to prominence thanks to a generation of superb players such as Mohamed Salah and Mahmoud Trezeguet. Egypt was able to return to the international stage in the 2018 World Cup, their first since 1990. Despite disappointing showings in 2018 and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations they hosted, the Egyptian national team are regular contenders and favorites in African football.

Egypt and Liverpool star Mohamed Salah

Egyptian Premier League

1948 saw the establishment of the Egyptian Premier League in its modern form. Due to sustained passion from Egyptian supporters and the well-rooted history of clubs, the league has maintained high interest, lucrative salaries, and sustained success in CAF competition. Egyptian clubs have captured the most CAF Champions League titles of all African nations, with 14 titles and eight runners-up. The 14 titles are more than double that of the next country on the list, Tunisia and their six titles. Al Ahly and Zamalek have also each captured a CAF Confederation Cup title.

The league maintains interest primarily through the passionate rivalries that have grown due to political and social reasons. Al Ahly and Zamalek form the main Cairo derby that captivates the country, but there are plenty of rivalries beyond the two giants. Clubs from Cairo are seen as the elite of Egyptian football, and are seen as receiving more benefit from the government and footballing authorities. While the two Cairo rivals dominate the Premier League and the nation’s attention when they meet, there is plenty of support for clubs based outside the capital.

Youth football in Egypt is one of the areas that has been a target of reform recently. The failure of the national team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup inspired investment in youth academies. A problem in the Egyptian Premier League is that many Egyptians stay in the league for extended periods due to the lucrative pay. Young talents do come up through club academies, but there is little game time for them as they develop early in their professional career. While the league will continue to thrive, more and more young Egyptian players will try their luck in Europe to get playing time as youth development improves.

Prominent Clubs

Al Ahly

With 42 league titles, 36 national cup triumphs, and eight CAF Champions League crowns, Al Ahly is the most successful club team not only in Egypt, but in all of Africa. Ahly brought African football to international attention through their performance in the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup, where they finished third. The club has a proud reputation of being the club representing Egyptian nationalism and a “club of the people”. The red and white colors pay homage to the pre-colonial Egyptian flag.

Success continues into the modern day, with Ahly claiming the last six Egyptian Premier League titles including their triumph this season. The club is headed by club legend and joint top all-time goal scorer, chairman Mahmoud El Khatib. With a passionate fanbase and a tradition that continues to thrive, Al Ahly will continue to live up to their title as one of CAF’s Clubs of the Century.


Zamalek is another big club in Cairo and provides the other half of the Cairo Derby with Al Ahly. Zamalek’s record and history is impressive as well, with twelve league titles, 26 national cups won, and five CAF Champions League victories. The club’s previous name (al-Nadi al-Mukhtalat, “The Mixed Club”) go back to its roots in allowing members to join whether they were European or Egyptian. Founded by a Belgian lawyer, the club counted famous Egyptologist Howard Carter amongst its early members. Before his deposition, King Farouk I was a patron of the club and renamed it Farouk I Club. After the revolution of 1952, the club became known by its modern name, Zamalek, after the area of Cairo it is located in. The club has evolved from its European background to focus on Egyptian identity, as seen in the club’s crest featuring an archer in the uniform of a Pharoah.

Following a ten year period from 2004-2014 without a league title, Zamalek elected the controversial lawyer Mortada Mansour as chairman of the club. Mansour led a reconstruction of Zamalek and achieved instant success by winning the 2014-15 Premier League title. While Ahly have dominated the last several seasons in the league, Zamalek have continued to have success in the national cup competition and CAF competitions. Mansour’s efforts have inspired a resurgence but have also added fuel to the Cairo Derby, with Mansour never shy to stoke controversy and outrage with his public comments.

Pyramids FC

Abdallah El Said: Pyramids FC’s star player

Pyramids FC are the new kids on the block looking to shake things up in Egyptian football. Founded twelve years ago as the modest Al Assiouty, the club was purchased in 2018 by a member of the Saudi government, Turki Al Sheikh, and then a year later acquired by Emirati businessman Salem Al Shamsi. Thanks to an influx of money, Pyramids have been able to compete right from the start. Finishing third in the 2018-19 Premier League, Pyramids are positioning themselves to challenge the two Cairo traditional powers in the coming years. With big money acquisitions like current star Abdallah El Said, Pyramids are looking to spend big money on international players to help them continue to close the gap.

Ismaily SC

The 1969 Ismaily team that won the CAF Champions League

Located on the west bank of the Suez Canal, Ismaily have built an impressive reputation despite not being based in Cairo. The club made history as the first Egyptian club to win the CAF Champions League in 1969, an achievement that cemented their place in Egyptian football history. Ismaily have won three league titles, two Egyptian Cups, and also were runners-up in the 2003 CAF Champions League.

The club has built a reputation as a great development club to go along with its successes. Many talented young players have made their first impressions at Ismaily, leading to moves to the Cairo giants or to Europe. Nicknamed “The Brazilians” for traditionally featuring an attractive style of play, Ismaily has built up a passionate fanbase that continues to support the club despite a lack of trophies in recent times.

Former players from Egypt’s top clubs

Al AhlyZamalekIsmaily
Mahmoud El KhatibAbdel-Wahed El-SayedAhmed Fathy
Hossam HassanAbdel Halim AliAhmed Hegazy
Hady KhashabaTarek El-SayedAbdallah El Said
Saleh SelimHassan ShehataMohamed Abo Gresha
Hany RamzyMidoHosny Abd Rabo