Meet Taha Ismail, the survivor from Egypt 1959 class

Taha Ismail 1

In 1959 the second edition of Africa Cup of Nations was held in Egypt. The Pharaohs who had already won the maiden edition in Sudan two years before. They hosted the second edition hoping to retain the title, and they did.

The 1959 edition was held in a round robin format between 3 teams; Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Egypt defeated Ethiopia 4-0, the later lost to Sudan 1-0 so the last game between Egypt and Sudan became a final. On 29 May 1959 at Al Ahly club stadium, Egypt defeated Sudan 2-1 to win their second AFCON title.

Only two players of Egypt’s class of 1959 are still alive; Mimi El Sherbiny and Taha Ismail. Ismail spoke to about this edition and his memories regarding it, his view of the current Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019, among other stuff.

Taha Ismail Profile

Date of birth: 08.02.1939

Playing position: Forward

Club: Al Ahly

Ismail played for Al Ahly for his entire career (1958 – 1970) and donned Egypt’s shirt (1959 – 1969). He won numerous titles with the Cairo Red Devils besides 1959 AFCON title with Egypt. Played in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games where Egypt finished in fourth place.

After retiring he worked as a coach and led Ahly to win CAF Cup Winners’ Cup in 1984. He was Egypt coach in AFCON 1994 In Tunisia. Worked as instructor for CAF and FIFA.

Taha Ismail

Memories of 1959 AFCON

Ismail said “It was the second edition of AFCON after we won the first in Sudan. Just three teams took part and we played at Al Ahly club.

“At this time media was not much interested in the tournament that was played in winter. We defeated Ethiopia and Sudan and won the title. There were no much media but for the local ones and some French media interested in African football.

“Playing tactics were simple, on the contrary of these days. Most teams played in the tactic known as WM. We had little difficulties in winning the trophy.

“I played after that in the third edition (Ethiopia 1962) and we lost the final, and the fourth (Ghana 1963) and we finished in third place”.

Participating in AFCON as a coach

In 1994 Taha Ismail was Egypt’s coach in Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

“We defeated Gabon 4-0 and then had a goalless draw with eventual champions Nigeria and we were top of our group. In the quarterfinals we lost to Mali 1-0. It was a 12 teams’ AFCON at that time and the competition was very tough”.

Having 24 teams in Africa Cup of Nations is a good decision and gives us the chance to follow more teams in the tournament. Taha Ismail

Current AFCON

“Having 24 teams in Africa Cup of Nations is a good decision and gives us the chance to follow more teams in the tournament. At the beginning it was three or four teams then for a long time it was 8 then 16 teams. I believe expansion is a good decision.

“Also having AFCON for the first time in summer solved the problem of foreign based players not being able to participate. I don’t think the weather is a big issue because we are used to this in Africa and most of the players have no problem with such weather.

“There are some good teams that captured viewers’ eyes like Senegal and Algeria. People were not satisfied with Egypt’s performance and I think their elimination was a shock to the supporters, but on the pitch it was a bit deserved.

“Madagascar is the tournament surprise packs. I think the coming rounds will be more exciting”.