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Hammers ill-fated trip to Egypt in 1966
Ron Greenwood’s Hammers travelled to northern Africa sitting eleventh in the Division One table following back-to-back wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United and a narrow 2-1 defeat at Leeds United – a team they had thrashed 7-0 at the Boleyn Ground just three weeks previously.
Perhaps the loss at Elland Road should have served as a warning for what transpired in Cairo – a performance and result that one newspaper harshly described as a ‘massacre’.
Prior to their departure, the squad had looked forward to a trip to Egypt ‘intended to take the players into a welcome spell of sunshine during the last days of November, as well as adding to their experience of foreign opposition’.
What transpired was a nightmare journey that ended with seven players nursing serious stomach bugs and the Hammers suffering a humiliating 5-1 thrashing at the hands of their hosts.
Founded in 1911, Zamalek Sporting Club is one of the most successful clubs in the history of both Egyptian and African football, having won eleven Egyptian league titles, 21 Egyptian Cups and no fewer than five CAF African Champions League titles.
Formed by a Belgian lawyer – Zamalek was the first Egyptian football club not to be formed by English expatriates – the club won its first league title in 1960, following that with further championships in 1964 and 1965.
As was the trend in the early 1960s, the club also invited foreign opposition to take part in special challenge matches, with European Cup winners Real Madrid CF visiting Cairo in 1961.
Club President Hassan Amer continued this tradition following his appointment in 1962, inviting West Ham to the Egyptian capital for a fixture on 30 November 1966.
The cartoon depicted a statue of the mythical Sphinx smiling broadly as a Nubian tells a suited tourist “Mister, it used to be an inscrutable smile but since West Ham, she’s put on a dirty big grin”. The reason for cartoonist Ray Ullyett’s mocking sketch was West Ham United’s 5-1 defeat by Egyptian side Zamalek Sporting Club the previous day.
A cartoon appeared in the Daily Express newspaper on Thursday 1 December 1966 that West Ham United fans will struggle to find funny.
Bovington and Johnny Byrne missed training, while John Charles, John Sissons, Ken Brown, Standen, Boyce, Moore and Hurst all joined Peters and Sealey in the sickbay.
Amazingly, despite being forced to make seven changes to his team for the visit of the Baggies, the Hammers ‘reserves’ defeated West Bromwich Albion 3-0.
Harry Redknapp and the recovered Peters put the Hammers two goals up before half-time, with Brian Dear adding a third five minutes from time.
The Hammers would fade during the latter part of the 1966/67 season, finishing a lowly 16th in the Division One table and conceding an astounding 84 goals in 42 league matches.
The major attraction of bringing the Hammers to Cairo was the presence of their three FIFA World Cup winners, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, and the club’s recent victory over TSV 1860 Munich in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final.
Following their arrival in Egypt, the squad went sight-seeing, with the players riding camels out to visit the famous Pyramids. Perhaps the single most important event to happen during the trip, though, was the meal eaten by West Ham’s players the day before the match which left no fewer than five players nursing what the matchday programme described as ‘gyppy tummy’.
Peters and Alan Sealey were deemed too ill to play by trainer Ernie Gregory, who took charge of the team while manager Greenwood remained in London to prepare for the weekend visit of West Bromwich Albion.
A number of those who did start the match were also under the weather, resulting in a sub-par performance and a result that not even the most optimistic of Zamalek supporters among the 50,000-strong crowd could have expected.
Helmi Zamora Stadium, Cairo : November 30, 1966
Zamalek S.C. 5 - 1 West Ham United
West Ham Team:
Grainy YouTube footage shows Hamada Emam control a low cross before lifting his shot over
advancing goalkeeper Jim Standen after 20 minutes.
Despite the weakened physical state of some of their stars, West Ham rallied and equalised when Ronnie Boyce controlled a ball on his thigh before belting an unstoppable 25-yard shot into the top right-hand corner.
From then on, however, it was all Zamalek.Emam smashed a left-footed volley past Standen from outside the penalty area before an error from Eddie Bovington saw the home side double their advantage through Taha Basri.
Into the second half and, as the tired visitors wilted in the heat, Abdel Karim El-Gohary’s deflected shot looped into the net to make the score 4-1 before, with seconds remaining, a close-range Emam header completed a thoroughly miserable 90 minutes.
Zamalek Sporting Club 5
West Ham United 1
Hamada Emam 3, Taha Basri, Abdel Karim El-Gohary
Jim Standen, Jack Burkett, John Charles, Eddie Bovington, Ken Brown, Bobby Moore, Peter Brabrook, Ronnie Boyce, Johnny Byrne, Geoff Hurst, John Sissons
To view the footage of the
match click the Sphinx
For Zamalek and their fans, however, the result was the cause for massive celebration, with many invading the pitch at the final whistle and one club official describing the event as a ‘memorable day’ for the illustrious club.
West Ham’s problems did not end on their departure from Cairo on 1 December, with seven players still feeling the effects of the ill-fated meal on their return to London.
Helmi Zamora Stadium, Cairo