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Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 17:38 GMT
Egypt's outstanding Pharaoh
By Farayi Mungazi

Egypt's Mohamed Barakat

It may not rank with recalling where you were when Nelson Mandela was released from prison but those connected with Ahly, 12 December 2005 will be remembered as the day Egypt's Mohamed Barakat proved his class.

On a high-octane night in Cairo, Barakat used his sharp football brain to devastating effect as Ahly claimed their fourth African champions title with a 3-0 demolition of Tunisia's Etoile Sahel.

Though slight of build, Barakat has proved remarkably resilient and was the rock on which Ahly not only built their Champions League success but also crafted their 55-game unbeaten run.

It is, therefore, my considered view that the 29-year-old is a worthy winner of the BBC African Footballer of the Year award.

European club football may, for no obvious reason, have eluded him thus far but the Egyptian international is undoubtedly one of the finest midfielders around.

Not yet fully developed when he played for the Pharaohs at the 2002 Nations Cup in Mali, Barakat has blossomed in the four years since and is now set to be one of the stars of this year's finals.

If Egypt manage to improve on their poor recent record at international level and win a record fifth Nations Cup title, I have no doubt that Barakat will have something to do with it.

Incidentally, he made his debut for the Pharaohs in June 2000 against South Korea and has now scored eight goals in 54 internationals.

Barakat's hallmarks are surging runs from midfield which often disrupt opposing defences as well as a box-to-box work ethic which makes him an important figure both in defence and attack.

If there is the slightest of chinks in his armour it may be his short fuse and a knack of making the wrong headlines.

He remains on poor terms with most authority figures in Egyptian football but not one of them doubts his talent - nor value to the national team.

Barakat began his career at unheralded Sekka but really found his feet when he joined Ismaili - just about the only club in Egypt with the ability to stand up to the 'big boys' of Ahly and Zamalek.

The 2002 Egyptian Footballer of the Year has also had spells with Arabi in Qatar and Ahli Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.


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