“Our current form is nice but it really is a tough league” Oumed Okuri

Since joining Smouha on August 2017 the Ethiopian international Oumed Okuri has made 22 appearances in all competitions. The former El-Entag El-Harby forward bagged three goals thus far; although his goal scoring prowess declined this season. Oumed finished off the 2016/17 season netting 11 league goals, the highest for an Ethiopian in Egyptian topflight league. Oumed recently spoke to Soccer Ethiopia on the low season he is having likewise about Blue Wave’s chance to qualify for continental football next season.

Egyptian Premier League has already past the half season. Smouha are fourth in the standing. What do you make of Smouha’s season so far?

I can say that it is going on good. We started off the season on a high note after registering some crucial away wins. However, we were not on the right position to pick points at home. We were good in away games but struggled at home. We couldn’t play as a team and that has impacted our side at first. With the change in technical bench, we are now in the right direction to achieve the plans we set before the season kicked off. At first we commenced the season having the Czech coach František Straka but ever since Talaat Yousef came on board things are going smoothly. The new trainer gives a better training sessions and it improved the team as we started playing like a unit. I have worked with Yousef during my Ittihad Alexandria days and our team is performing much better now.

Talaat Yousef has guided Libyan side Al Ahli Tripoli to the CAF Champions League quarter finals last season. What did Talaat brought to Smouha in order for the team to get better and notch some good results following Straka’s dismissal?

Talaat is a workaholic. He is respected and feared by his players. They even nicknamed him the Egyptian Mourinho. He doesn’t have time for unnecessary antics as he oftentimes focuses on training and improving the team. Straka was very close to players and that made players to get a bit lazy during training sessions. That impacted our performance week in week out. When Talaat took over everyone at the club started to work harder. This brought the better side of Smouha and helped us to improve our performance and result.

You had a memorable one year at Cairo based club El-Harby and your form was mesmerizing. Many expected you to carry on from where you left when you joined Smouha in August 2017 but in the contrary you declined

It is true I was not scoring as I used to last year. When the season kicked off, I was not fully integrated with the team and style of play. I usually squandered scoring chances and sometimes the bar and post came between me and the goal. I have missed good scoring chances against Ahly, Nasr, Raja and Ismaily. It came as shocking and surprising to me also. I reckon at times I was not lucky. During my El Harby days the attack usually revolves around me and it made my game to be easy. Here at Smouha it is a different story. A change in the style of play impacted me but now I am adapting to the system and I have done better in last four rounds. I have so far played 22 games and I must continue to focus on games than scoring goals. If my concentration is on the ties we are playing, then it will be simple for me to get more goals.

What is you assessment of the 2017/18 season?

There is a stiff competition. Every game you play is tough and you play games in space of every three or four days. Our current form is nice but it really is a tough league.

Smouha are fourth in the league and the point difference between the fourth and second placed Ismaily is closing down as a continental football in 2018/19 season might be on the horizion. What is the main objective of Smouha this season?

We planned to finish fourth and above. Smouha is a club that spends a lot on quality and they need to see the fruits of this. When we lost to El Gaish, club officials came to discuss with us the next day. They told us anything below fourth is unacceptable. We are going to face close competitors like Zamalek and Ismaily at home even though clubs like ENPPI are now becoming stronger. We have managed to pick maximum points off relegation battlers Wadi Dagla and I think if we kept on the momentum we can finish fourth and above.

No one can deny that the competition in Egypt topflight is stiff but Ahly are leading the log table comfortably. They are not struggling to defend their title.

Al Ahly is a strong outfit. Among some points what makes Ahly stronger is that the psychological superiority they have accumulated throughout the years. Most teams came to tackle Ahly with a defensive approach. Not many clubs defy the odd and launch an all attack style against Ahly. I only saw Al Masry doing that. Perhaps it is related with Hossam Hassan being their coach. Hossam is very bold and the team he manages never feared Ahly. To my recollection, when Hossam was coaching me at Ittihad, we beat Ahly 4-1.

In Egypt coaches get sacked and replaced frequently. For instance Taalat is the second coach for Smouha this season. Has this scenario affected your performance?

Not at all! It is a tradition here that coaches get replaced in a short period. If a coach loses three games in a row, he might be fired within a month time. It is normal here since everything is related with result. If the results are not coming, then clubs will show coaches the exit door. I have not seen any major difference between Egyptian coaches. There may be difference on the training methods they deploy and tactics but mostly they like to play counter attacks and defending style of play. It is only when I was at ENNPI swift change of coaches impacted me as I was not playing regularly.

AfCON qualifier games have been moved to September. If the usual trends are intact our national team will be laid off for the forthcoming months. What is your take on this?

It is correct that there will not be any international games for us unless we play friendly encounters. The game against Sierra Leone is moved to another date and it give us the time to prepare for the tie but without a proper preparation like getting friendly games it will be tough for us.

Egypt qualified for the World Cups after 27 years wait…

It was a euphoric moment for them. The game against Congo Brazaville was staged in Alexandria and we had a training session in the morning so as we could watch the game in the afternoon. The whole city exploded after the game. They were signing and cheering the whole night. I reminisced when we qualified for AfCON in 2012. It is the same feeling; although qualifying for the World Cup is much different than qualifying for AfCON. On that very day I wished if it was Ethiopia who qualified for the World Cups.

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