CAIRO – The past four weeks will go down in Zamalek Sporting Club history as one of the brightest moments for the Cairo-based club.
On May 30, Zamakek eliminated the Tunisian champion Union Monastir to claim the title of the first edition of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in Kigali, Rwanda.
On June 28, Zamalek closed the Egyptian SuperLeague best-of-five final with an 84-80 overtime triumph over then-defending champions Al-Ittihad to complete the dream double.
“IN THE BACKGROUND, THE AFRICAN BASKETBALL LEAGUE SHOWED US THAT WE CAN REALLY FIGHT FOR [EGYPTIAN] THE CHAMPIONSHIP.”
Ahmed Hatem, Eslam Salem, Walter Hodge and Mohab Yasser combined 70 Zamalek points as they closed the final series in Game 5.
Egypt international Anas Mahmoud, who won the BAL Defensive Player of the Season award, has been named Egyptian SuperLeague MVP 2021.
And Yasser, 18, the youngest player to feature in the BAL, won the 2021 Egyptian SuperLeague Best Young Player award.
Al-Ittihad’s Haytham Kamal, who finished with 22 points and seven rebounds in the deciding game, received the 2021 SuperLeague top scorer award.
It was Zamalek’s second SuperLeague title in three seasons.
After a troubling 2020 season, Zamalek recruited Spaniard Augusti Julbe as head coach in November last year, and things have never been the same as ‘The Knights’ became an immediate contender for the title.
“It has been a very successful season,” Julbe told FIBA.basketball.
The mentality and positive attitude of his players, Julbe insisted, has been essential to their successful season. “Our players got my message from day one. They made a huge effort every time they stepped on the pitch, and they did it consistently to win games.”
Zamalek closed his 2021 BAL season undefeated in six games. Upon returning to Cairo, Julbe insisted that his team looked mentally strong even though Chinemelu Elonu, Souleyman Diabate and Michael Fakuade did not return for their last game of the SuperLeague play-offs.
“Winning the BAL had a positive impact on our team. The core of the players learned to overcome adversity to win the championship. It made them believe that with the hard work we were doing, the level of focus and motivation that we would be able to achieve the ultimate goal of winning the SuperLeague. Basically, the BAL has shown us that we can really fight for the [Egyptian] Championship.”
Asked about his future with Zamalek, Julbe left the door open, but insisted he would need time to think about his future.
“It’s too early to discuss my future [with Zamalek],” he said.
I didn’t want to tell anyone about my future [at Zamalek]. I come wanted to focus on the end of the season in the best possible way, like we did. Now it’s time to celebrate and build on this success. Summer is a very long time to decide what my options are for the future. As a European coach, I want to explore some opportunities in Europe and be open to anything. As a professional coach you should always be open and be aware of the opportunities, and of course I am honored that Zamalek gave me the opportunity a few months ago to coach this team. I’ll think about it, but I’m open to all options. “