Although they cannot rightly claim to be the biggest club in their home city of Cairo, Zamalek are one of the most successful teams in the history of African football. The club has consistently produced some of the finest talent in Egyptian football, including current national team coach and former playing hero Hassan Shehata. Join FIFA.com for a closer look at an Egyptian institution
Birth of an institution
The club was founded in 1911, when a group of foreigners aimed to establish an outlet for socialising and playing sports. Most of the clubs in the country during that time were managed by Englishmen, as Egypt was under British rule.
The club was inaugurated under the name of Kasr-El Nil and was first headed by Belgian lawyer Marzbach. The name was changed to Moktalat in the year 1913 and was named after King Farouk in 1940, before finally settling as Zamalek after the revolution in 1952. Dr. Mohamed Badr was the first Egyptian to chair the institution, but the most prominent presidents in the club's history are Mohamed Heidar, Hassan Amer and the controversial Mortada Mansour.
The football team was established in 1913 at the club, and they won their first official trophy in 1921 when they scooped up the Sultan Cup. Zamalek was also the first Egyptian club to win the country's cup competition, which began in 1922. They are also the only side to win the cup four successive times, from 1957 to 1960.
Zamalek is also known for a succession of sons following their fathers in to the club ranks, such as Yakan and his son Hicham, Ghanem and Ahmed Sultan, Hassan Shehata and his son Kariem, who played for the youth ranks. In some cases the trend went as far as three generations, like the Emam family that started with Yehia Emam, who played in the 1930s and '40s, and his son Hamada Emam in the 60's and finally grandson Hazem Emam, who hung up his boots last year.
Making of a legend
Although Zamalek have churned out many stars of Egyptian football, it is quite notable that the club's most memorable achievements were orchestrated by foreign players. When they successfully defended their Egyptian league title for the first time in 1964, Zamalek were led by the Sudanese Omar El Noor and Ali Mohsen, from Yemen, who was the first foreigner to ever to finish top scorer in the Egyptian league.
In the mid-1980s, Zamalek introduced another foreigner to Egyptian football: Emanuel Kwarshi. The mighty Ghanaian led the team to league success in 1984 alongside local lads Farouk Gaafar and Ibrhaim Youssef, and also piloted them to their first-ever continental title that same year after beating Shooting Stars of Nigeria in the final of the Ahmed Sekou Toure Cup (now the CAF Champions League). This was the start of a winning streak that saw the club amass more than half a dozen continental trophies.
Emmanuel Amunike was the last foreigner to contribute to one of the club's golden eras, in the early 1990s. The Nigerian star was scouted by club officials during his time with the Super Eagles' Olympic team in the All Africa Games that Egypt hosted in 1991.
He helped Zamalek to two league titles and to keep the Ahmed Sekou Toure trophy forever after winning it for a third time in 1993, before he moved to Europe, where he played for Sporting Lisbon and Barcelona.
After Amunike's departure, the team had to look for a new hero and one of the club's most memorable moments came when they signed the legendary Hossam Hassan in the year 2000 from arch-rivals Al Ahly. Alongside his twin brother Ibrahim, Hossam guided the club to a number of domestic and continental titles, spurring the supporters to call it the era of the Hassan twins.
The team then went through an extended title drought which coincided, painfully, with the complete dominance of their eternal rivals Al Ahly on the local scene. Zamalek have won only one domestic cup in the last five years.
Egyptian billionaire and former club president Mamdouh Abbas was keen on the tradition of signing foreign player and picked up Ghanaian Junior Agogo for a record fee, but the former Nottingham Forest striker failed to meet the expectations of the club's fans. That same year though, they opted for younger players from the club's youth ranks and these youngsters helped secure a mid-table finish after relegation looked a real possibility. Former Al Ahly and Zamalek talent Hossam Hassan became the coach after disappointing results for Zamalek in 2009; they were in 13th place in the Egyptian league - a record low - when he was hired in late 2009.
The club has no home ground. Their old stadium, Helmy Zamoura, is not suitable for hosting the first team's official matches due to its limited capacity, its central downtown location and the fact that it has not been seriously renovated since its inauguration more than 50 years ago. Consequently, Zamalek play their home matches at the Military Academy Stadium.