After having won the Egyptian league and African Champions League with his club al-Ahly in 2005, Mohammed Barakat just crowned his brilliant career by winning the Africa Cup of Nations CAN 2006 in Egypt. The midfielder, voted the best African player in 2005 by the BBC and named best footballer playing in the black continent the same year by the African Confederation of Football (CAF), is considered by many to be one of the most talented players of Africa. Confidences of a Pharaoh who disrupts opposing defenses.

images4Tell our readers how you came to football?
My career began in a common way. I lived in Nasr City, a district of Cairo, next to the club of the Authority of Railways "Sekka el-Hadid." I registered for technical tests and was taken. I spent ten years with the club which discovers a lot of seeds of stars before transfering them to big clubs. Then, at age of 20, I was moved to Ismaili, where I played for five years ... Gradually I became known in the middle of Egyptian and Arabic football and from there I started my adventure of two years in Saudi Arabia and Qatar before returning to Egypt and signing for al-Ahly .

You spent five exellent seasons in Ismaili formidable yet you're not out of the shadows, do you explain this by the omnipresence of Ahly and Zamalek?
For me this is normal discretion. Ismaili is certainly a great club, but the number of fans has nothing to do with supporters of al-Ahly and Zamalek. It's funny but it is with Ismaili I scored the most goals ... During my first season with the yellow jersey I scored ten goals before being voted best player in Egypt last season . It was already great because it is rare that a player outside of al-Ahly and Zamalek gets this title ... But at the same time I must admit that footballers of these two clubs are still living under the focus of the media.

In a second time, you exile in the Gulf, it was a good idea for an ambitious player? Was not this an error on the sport?
Play in Saudi Arabia was not a bad idea ... Saudi championship is very strong, there are famous African and Brazilian players who play there ... During the season I spent at  Ahly Jeddah I was chosen best foreign player ... I benefited ... But in Qatar, my experience in al-Araby added nothing to me ... I will not say it was a bad adventure, but I have not benefited from a technical standpoint.

At al-Araby, you play with stars like Batistuta, what was the problem?
The success of football requires the presence of stars and good players but also the existence of spectators and media interest ... Apart from the recruitment of international stars, there was nothing in Qatar ... There people are interested in anything except real football ... that's what pushed me to make the decision to return to Egypt.

Then you arrive in Cairo: the choice of Al-Ahly would happen to themselves? You could also opt for Zamalek for example?
The professionalism of al-Ahly has convinced me to return to Egypt and sign for the club ... The other detail that helped me make this decision was the signing of my former teammate in Ismaili, Emad el -Nahas, for the Red Devils. That reassured me.

images1You just know two extraordinary years with El Ahly punctuated by a victory in the Champions League in Africa, how do you explain this comeback club in Cairo?
al-Ahly is a club which hunts titles ... But like all other major clubs in the world, it has experienced lean years. The problem was the impatience of fans of the "red fortress" ... They are greedy ... they are always hungry for victories and titles ... In the bad time the club crossed, al-Ahly had very good players. But they were young and had a lack of experience. Once they were put under pressure they were losing control. The administration of al-Ahly has understood what was wrong and began to try to recruit players with experience. This has helped the club to find back the way to titles.

This performance, unfortunately, has not been confirmed at the FIFA Clubs World Club: al-Ahly has gone through, you have regrets?
The FIFA Clubs World Club, is the great controversy ... everyone says that we have not played as usual. But I do not agree with that ... We played against the champions of other continents. We had big clubs in front of us. This was our first experience at this level. Let's see our two matches, the first against the Saudi "Ittihad Jeddah" We dominated the first half time and we were surprised not to have scored at least one goal ... Then in second half, the level of the team has fallen in incomprehensible way... Usually, when two or three players are not in shape, others compensate. but this time we were seven or eight players to be "decommissioned". It was impossible to mobilize the team. For the 2nd game against the "Sydney FC" we lost by misfortune. we had two goals cash as a result of only two Australian attacks during the match. The supporters were disappointed because the media made them believe that al-Ahly had gone to Japan to win the title, which was not true. Of course we had the hope to meet Liverpool and Sao Paolo ... But for the sole purpose of showing the power of Egyptian football. I have no regrets for this adventure, as we have learned ... Next year if we qualify for the FIFA Clubs World Club, we will have the experience. Now we know that the first match is the most important. (Laugh) Come on, Al-Ahly is still 6th in the FIFA Club World Club and not 6th of Egyptian League or a Ramadan tournament (tournament held in the popular neighborhoods in Egypt during the month of Ramadan )!

You score goals regularly, but you're primarily a play maker. You experience the same pleasure to achieve both?
Scorer ? me? I never considered myself as scorer ... I prefer the position of play maker, i adore it...scoring goals it's luck. I never think about scoring goals. But when I do i'm a happy.

images2While you are a decisive player, you constantly repeat that the star is the team, are not you too modest?
Not at all, it's the truth. Even if I'm considered important, others are too. Abu Treka is a decisive element, Emad al-Nahas is the rock of the defense, Met'eab is the scorer ... Everyone is decisive in his post. I can not do it alone.

A modest doubling of a sentimentalist. In 2005 you melt into tears at the end of a game in which you scored three goals against your old club (Al-Ahly 6 IsmaIi 0). You were sad for your former teammates?
These tears were tears of joy ... Mark is a pleasure in itself. And scor three goals against a club like Ismaili is not an easy task. But I hid my joy because I took in consideration Ismaili fans who supported and loved me for five years ... This would not have been a good idea to provoke them.

Can you imagine Mohammed Barakat move to another Egyptian club other than al-Ahly?
You can say that it is almost impossible ... As I had said at the beginning of this interview, I returned to Egypt to play for al-Ahly.

If with Al Ahly, every thing is good, in selection, you have not had an easy task. You took longtime to prove yourself?
What you say is not entirely accurate. I was selected since my debut in Ismaili. Now I admit that I was not always in the 11 players who start the game... The only time when I was deprived of his selection, was when Marco Tardelli was the coach. I never liked that but I always respected the choice of Mr. Tardelli.

you had problems with the coach of the Pharaohs Hassan Shehata, but during the CAN 2006, he counted a lot on you ... so what is the truth ?
I would not say that there were problems, but differences of views. In addition, Some people have tried to sow mischief. When we explained, the coach and I have discovered that people wanted to create problems.

This CAN is at point to give you an international title you need, you finally became part of the "greats", right?
(It has the light that shines) Of course I am part of the "greats" now ... I just won the CAN, the third biggest tournament in the world. I was not only part of the list of 23, I played every game!

During this tournament have you, at one time or another, doubted in the victory of the Pharaohs?
First, I must recognize that we were not technically the strongest among all these selections which came to Egypt. But I was sure we were going to win the trophy .... This may seem paradoxical, but I have my reasons: A : God gave us happiness. Two: The players wanted to do something and they sacrificed themselves on the ground to achieve this goal. Three: the spectators. When a team is supported by 75 million Egyptians, we can do nothing but succeed ! Over than 50% of the victory belongs to the fans ... The moved into families to the stadiums to support us ... Political leaders attended not only to matches but also to the training to encourage us ... With all this, it was unimaginable that a selection can take the title from us... We could die rather than accept failure.

In 2010, you will have 33 years old do you expect to participate in your world with the first team from Egypt, in Africa?
images3God only knows. Will I still be alive? Can I still play in 2010? I do not know ... But if all goes well and I'm still in shape, of course I will make from the World Cup a goal. This is the only major tournament missing in my career.

You do not reject the idea of playing in Europe. Which championship would you prefer?
I do not think any player can say no to a proposed chance in Europe ... If such an opportunity is presented, I wil accept. With one condition: it comes from a high level championship.

You have just been sacred African best player by the BBC listeners and Internet users ahead of players such as Eto'o, Essien or Okocha, are you proud of this recognition?
To be honest, this is not a matter of pride, it's a reward ... I worked in 2005. This award gave me the impression that there are people who appreciate what I did. And then you saw the list of other nominees? Now, I admit that I never sought to draw a comparison with other players ... For me things are simple: "If I work, I am rewarded. Period." This consecration will push me to do my best in 2006.

Before you even become a star, who was your model: first Egypt and then in the world?
I begin with the global ... I love Zidane and Luis Figo. In Egypt, my model is Taher Abou Zeid, that is why I am still wearing the number "12".

Do you think that the game practiced by al-Ahly, incessant pressing of the ten field players, is like the total football of Ajax of 70's?
(A little evil smile) I have not experienced the Ajax of 70's, so how can i comment on his game?

images6In Egyptian National team you don't play in same position you keep in the club, does that bother you?
It does not bother me, but you should know that my role among the Red Devils had nothing to do with my position in the selection ... At al-Ahly, I am a play maker .. in the selection I am a right back, the defense is my main concern. I think the right back position is more tiring and I must admit that I prefer the position of offensive midfielder.

You have a wealth of technical and you are very active in the field, eventually you have no weakness ...
On the ground I think I have no weaknesses. But in life in general my weakness is my family and especially my children ... When I am with them, I do not want to leave even to go to training.

What do you on Barakat the man, the husband and the father?
Barakat is a simple man who lives a normal life ... I love my wife and children. I live far from the flashes and stars ... That is why people think I'm not sociable ... It's a bit true, but I prefer to devote my time to my family.

Tell us about the secret Barakat?
The secret Barakat does not exist. The fans know everything about me through the interviews i do with media to the media... I have nothing to hide, you can say that I am "an open book" to everyone.

What bothers Barakat on the ground and in their daily live?
On the ground, is when an opponent is very violent. This happened to me during the final of the CAN when an ivoirian player attacked me in front of the refree on several occasions ... I was really upset. In everyday life, what bothers me is when there's a problem in my family ... when one of my children is sick for example. Or when I read in the newspapers about all the violence that devours the world and the missed peace everywhere.

In addition to football, what are the other attractions of Barakat?
I prefer to stay at home to play with my children, read newspapers, watch television and listen to music ... Besides, I like all kind of music. When I want to find peace, i listen to the stars of classic egyptian song, such as Abel Halim Hafez and Oum Kalsoum.

Barakat's Digest
Name: Mohammad Ahmed Barakat
Nickname: Mercury
Born in september 7th, 1976 in Cairo, 64 kgweight  1,71 m tall. Married, two children Maram (girl 5 years) and Adham (boy 2 years).
Successive Clubs: Sekka el-el-Hadid (Egypt 1986-1996), Ismaili (Egypt 1997-2002), Ahly Jeddah (Saudi Arabia 2003), al-Araby (Qatar 2004) and Al-Ahly (Egypt 2005 -?)
Awards : African Cup of Nations CAN 2006 ", African Champions League in 2005, two national titles in 2002 and 2005, Cup of Egypt 1997, Arab Champions League in 2003, SuperCup of Egypt 2005.
BBC Africa Best player in 2005.
CAF Best footballer playing in the African continent in 2005.
Best foreign player in Saudi Arabia in 2003.
Best player in Egypt in 2002.

Mohammad Barakat: A shooting Star...
imagesHis name is one of these that predestine. And when we know that in Arabic, "baraka" means "blessing", then perhaps we better understand the phenomenon Mohammed Barakat. Technician off-standard and tireless worker, Barakat has something to smile for today. Few months ago, he led his team al-Ahly in the African Champions League, before going to sit on the roof of Africa with the Pharaohs. An outstanding 2005-2006 season, won the title of the best African player (vote of auditors from the BBC).
So, Barakat, the new messiah of Egyptian football? The man plays rather drafts. Just ordered the cleats to the dressing rooms, Barakat quickly blend into the crowd. Looking down, curled shoulders, he plays zigzague between journalists and the fans. An attitude that has earned the odd nickname of "Mercury". Not the Roman god, no, but this elusive matter, and which slides out, without ever being caught. High quality in the field, but a mystery in life. Behavior that some have difficults to understand and his coach does not hide his regret for that side of not being associable. A star must assume, he said.
But Barakat is one of those who preferred family life to sequins. So, between the field and privacy, two men, two personalities, are turning their backs. Because of the puny man in the streets changes to be an extraordinary fighter on the ground. On the lawn, Barakat move. As play maker or right back, his pressing is incessant and harassing. He aligns the long runs, tackles like a stopper, before restarting a cross on feet. Sometimes goalscorer, Barakat prefers to be a play maker. Certainly altruistic side. As he gives good shots, he gets a lot too. And here is the warm-blooded competitor of mud. Beating blood that worry his coach: iF he has a defect in the game is being too emotional. Easily provoked, the man wearing number 12 can react with quarter turn.
Yet he is far from the Tall African : In his costume of wise father, he does not pay attention. Always a little behind, as if he is trying to protect himself, he does not increase the tone. And when we dare to compare the behavior to his idol Zinédine Zidane, the compliment would almost blush. But in his eyes always on the lookout, a spark of pride lights. because modesty does not preclude ambition. Barakat may feed on great ideas, the mind may already be in Europe.
The interview is almost finished. Hardly a head movement and the man has already spun. Quietly, as not to bother anyone, not to apologize for having to leave us so soon.
Far from the star system, Mohammed Barakat is still a star. A shooting star.

This article is written for the french magazine "Foot Africa" (Special thanks to Arnaud Saint-Jean)