Egypt's favourite son looks to shed bad-boy image down the Lane

Mido, who aims to derail Newcastle tomorrow, has played for seven clubs in seven countries but is now determined to settle at Spurs, writes Jason Burt
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The Independent Football

Mido is the nickname that has stuck to Ahmed Hossam as closely as the volatile reputation, and precocious talents, the Egyptian striker took to White Hart Lane when he joined Tottenham Hotspur in January. And doesn't he know it. Indeed Mido doesn't even have to be asked. "We say in Egypt that to learn things you have to pay things," he says. "And I paid for this problem."

Mido is the nickname that has stuck to Ahmed Hossam as closely as the volatile reputation, and precocious talents, the Egyptian striker took to White Hart Lane when he joined Tottenham Hotspur in January. And doesn't he know it. Indeed Mido doesn't even have to be asked. "We say in Egypt that to learn things you have to pay things," he says. "And I paid for this problem."

Despite Spurs being his seventh club in seven different countries (no surprise then that he's the son of a travel agent), it was still a shock for Mido to read, when he arrived in England, what was written about him. "I started to read 'Mido the bad boy', 'the troublemaker', which is not true," he says, sounding genuinely hurt. "You can see after six weeks that I'm a normal guy, a normal player. I've come to play football, do the best for my club. That's it. Nothing more."

That's not the case, of course. For Mido, only 22 last month, is far from a "normal player". He's not only the "King of Cairo", the "Prince of the Nile", "the Young Pharoah", the best footballer to ever wear the colours of an Arab national team, but a player who has slipped easily into the mantle of crowd-pleasing showman that Spurs fans traditionally crave. Three goals and a series of virtuoso performances have melted hearts. It helps that he is, or claims to be, a fan as well.

"Tottenham is a big club, an historical club," Mido says, by way of explaining why he chose them above the 15 others his assortment of agents declared were after him. "There have been many big players here during the history of the club and I used to follow Tottenham when I was young. [Jürgen] Klinsmann was playing here. He was an idol for me."

He's pushing all the right buttons now and, with tomorrow's FA Cup quarter-final against Newcastle United in mind, again easily taps into that tradition. "I know the FA Cup is an important thing for English people in general and Tottenham especially and I know that Tottenham have won it, I think, eight times," Mido says. "The players are all aware of this and know there's a good opportunity."

Nevertheless, it's intriguing that he is here in the first place and has signed an 18-month extended loan deal from Roma. And, despite his protestations that it was a natural move to make, it deserves explanation. In the interests of setting the record straight, the best thing to do is let Mido himself describe his mercurial career since he left Cairo, where he was born into a middle-class family. His father, Wasfy, is a former footballer and Mido started at his old club, Zamalek. He immediately stood out and not just because, at 6ft 2in, he is unusually tall for an Egyptian.

"OK," he says, before drawing breath. "Let me tell you club by club. First I played in Gent in Belgium. I was young, I was 17 and scored many goals. I then had a better opportunity to go to a bigger club and a better level of football. So I chose to go to Ajax. In the first season I did very well and I was top-scorer and we won the cup and the championship and the super cup. And in the second season, in the first part I was top-scorer again and did very well. Then I had my problem with Ronald Koeman and that changed a lot of things in my career."

Ronald Koeman. It's safe to say, although it remains unspoken, that Mido was not unhappy when the brittle former Dutch international, who once substituted him just half-an-hour into a game, was pushed out by the Amsterdam club a couple of weeks ago. The two never saw eye-to-eye and Koeman often publically professed his exasperation.

Although Mido was just 19, he acted even younger - and now admits so himself. "It's true that I was young and didn't have enough experience to handle the situation. I admit I made some mistakes at Ajax," he says.

Such as calling a press conference when he was dropped to announce he didn't want to play for the club again. "It was very stupid because it was in September and I couldn't do anything," Mido explains with a shrug. "When I think about it now it wasn't the best thing to do and I wouldn't do it again in the future."

But this has always been a young man in a hurry - after all he bought himself a Ferrari just five minutes after signing for Ajax. And he developed a youthful, exuberant rivalry with his best friend, team-mate and contender for the sole striker's place at the Amsterdam ArenA, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The two have much in common. Except it was Ibrahimovic, not Mido, who got the move both also craved, by eventually joining Juventus. Mido had to drop down to Celta Vigo.

"I scored four goals in seven games and they qualified for the Champions' League for the first time in the history of the club which was a big thing for the people of Vigo," Mido says with pride. "But they did not have the money to keep me and I had to move on. Of course I could not come back to Ajax because of my problem with Koeman. So I moved to Marseilles, did well in the first six months. Me and Didier Drogba were the best two strikers in the French league.

"Then I had to go to the African Cup and got injured. And then the move to Roma was not the best, to be honest. I didn't think about it. Roma is a big club and it was a dream for me to play there. Rudi Völler [the then coach] called me and asked me to come and said I would be his first choice. Unfortunately for me he left after just four games and the new manager [Luigi del Neri] came in and decided to play with [Vincenzo] Montella and he scored a lot of goals. And then I came to Tottenham."

It's a whirlwind history which is also laced with an untimely feud with Marco Tardelli who was coaching the Egyptian national team until recently. So acrimonious did their row become that Mido was banned from playing for his country "indefinitely", despite scoring 15 times in 34 senior appearances and being feted as a God back home. At least 40 websites are dedicated to him. Every move is scrutinised and tales of Mido hurriedly parking his latest sports car in the lanes of Cairo to join in the street football are legendary.

"Everything was going well for me but from the moment Tardelli arrived he decided not to use me," Mido now claims. "That was very strange. From the first day I could see he did not want to work with me and that was difficult. So I decided to say that I wasn't happy with what the man was doing. And then I got injured."

Now Tardelli - the Italian former World Cup winner, who tells a somewhat different story of Mido refusing to play for his country and then turning out for Roma - has gone. Mido has been recalled. A fax has arrived at Spurs' training ground inviting him to play in the forthcoming World Cup qualifier against Libya.

"I'm happy to be back and still have a lot of things to do for my country because I've got a lot more experience than the guys over there and can help them a lot," Mido says.

His honesty is admirable but there is no denying the pattern. He arrives, creates a storm, scores a flurry of goals, has a falling out, often with a disciplinary coach, and moves on. "I played for many clubs and that's a good thing and not a good thing," Mido says. "It's good because it means I have a lot of experience and it's not good because every time you arrive at a club you have to take time to settle in, the way they play football and the way they live in that country."

He adds, defiantly: "But to be honest each club that I left it wasn't my fault." Maybe so. But there are also other grounds for hope that, this time, and at Tottenham, it may be different.

First of all Mido has become a father. He is married, to Yosra, and they have an eight-month son, Ali. "If you are a father you will know that when you have a son it changes your life," he says with a smile. "It's true that since I have become a father I've changed a lot of things of my way of living." After all it's hard to fit a baby-seat into a Ferrari. "It's more responsibility because before I was living for myself and now I'm living for myself and my family and for my son," Mido says. "I'm very proud to be a father at such a young age and it's true that it has given me a lot of maturity." It is a "better" life, he adds.

There is also a greater sense of belonging with Spurs, as well. He knew of - rather than knew - Martin Jol from his time in the Netherlands. "He's a very serious man," Mido says. "He lives for football and gives everything he has to the team and to the club."

He is also, Mido says, "fair". "I think the difference here is that I'm having a fair chance to prove my quality," he says. "Even though there are another three good strikers I can accept the situation because I have a lot of respect for [Frédéric] Kanouté and [Robbie] Keane and [Jermain] Defoe. I know they are top-class, internationals, and can give the same level that I can to the team. So I know that if I have to sit on the bench sometimes I accept it."

He adds: "It's only football that controls the situation and that's the difference between Tottenham and Roma. In Roma I did not start for one game in the competition and I wasn't given a fair chance so that's why I decided to leave."

Mido has found English football exhilarating. Scoring goals has also helped him to settle in "fast" while, from playing for Ajax, he understands the "real Dutch mentality" that Jol - ironically the favourite to succeed Koeman at Ajax - and Spurs' sporting director Frank Arnesen are creating. It was also from his time in Belgium and Amsterdam that Mido learnt his impeccable English.

There has been one down-side. During last weekend's Premiership defeat at Southampton - another club interested in his services - he was racially abused by the home fans. The chants of "shoebomber" - referring to the post September 11 incident involving an Egyptian-born terrorist - were not lost on him. He was left somewhat bemused. "For me it's strange because I'm here to play football and it's never happened to me in another country," Mido shrugs. Football was born here and people should understand that players come here from different countries because English football is A-class, one of the best, and they only want to do their best." It's all he wants to do.

"The only thing I can do is lead my normal life," Mido says, referring back to his turbulent past. "You can see that I never have problems on the pitch, with the referee and other players. I think people through time will recognise that they had the wrong image of me. I have an 18-month contract here and I'm sure at the end of that what they will say is that what we thought of this guy was wrong."

Cairo to London Mido's exotic journey

Name: Hossam Ahmed

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Date of birth: 23/03/83

Place of Birth: Cairo

Position: Striker

Caps: Egypt 34. 15 goals (International debut 06/01/01 v UAE)

Transfer History

13 August 2002: Gent to Ajax - £3,000,000

19 March 2003: Ajax to Celta Vigo - on loan

13 July 2003: Ajax to Marseilles - undisclosed fee

31 August 2004: Marseilles to Roma - £4,500,000

26 January 2005: Roma to Tottenham Hotspur - on loan

Season statistics (04/05)

Premiership: Tottenham Hotspur - 3 appearances/2 goals

FA Cup: Tottenham Hotspur - 0 appearances (+2 sub)/1 goal

Ligue 1: Marseilles - 1 appearance

Uefa Champions' League: Roma - 1 appearance (+3 sub)

Serie A: Roma - 0 appearances (+8 sub)/1 yellow card

Total: 5 appearances (13 as sub)/3 goals/1 yellow card

Season stats (03/04)

Uefa Cup: Marseilles - 2 appearances (+2 sub)/1 yellow card

Uefa Champions' League Qualifier: Marseilles - 1 appearance

Le Championnat: Marseilles - 18 appearances/6 goals/3 yellow cards

Uefa Champions' League: Marseilles - 5 appearances (+1 sub)/2 goals/ 2 yellow cards

Total: 26 appearances (+5 sub)/8 goals/6 yellow cards


Personal: CAF Young Player of The Year 2002; 3rd in CAF Best Footballer of The Year 2002; Best Egyptian Player Abroad (By Egyptian Football Association) 2002 & 2003. Best Uprising Egyptian Footballer 2001.

For Ajax: 1 Dutch League title 2001/2002 (Scored 13 goals); 1 Dutch Cup title 2001/2002 (Scored a goal in Final); 1 Dutch Super Cup title 2001/2002 (Scored a goal in final)

For Zamalek: 1 African Cup Winners' Cup titles 2000; For Egypt - 3rd Place in African Cup Youth Championship Ethiopia 2001


March 2005: Left out of Egypt squad for friendly against Saudi Arabia

February 2005: Apologises for his lack of discipline that has seen him left out of Egypt team since July

September 2004: Pulls out of Egyptian national squad for their World Cup qualifier against Cameroon claiming a groin injury but plays in a friendly for Roma just 24 hours later

March 2003: Leaves Ajax on loan after row with Ronald Koeman