WHILE Cowdenbeath have not had many foreign stars, one who arrived from Egypt, via Derby County, was someone who could certainly entertain.

Cowden historian, David Allan looked at the Cowden connection with Egypt.

He said: "Tewfic Abdullah was born in Cairo in 1896. He was a keen footballer as a boy and went on to play for the Cairo based team El Mokhtalat.

"Tewfik then served in the British forces during World War 1 and showed his prowess as a footballer. He was chosen to play in representative games versus British Army XIs. After the War, in 1919, he was a member of the Cairo Sporting Club team and was selected to represent the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, at the Egypt Olympics, against the British Army, who were beaten by three goals to nil.

"Abdullah than made his way to Belgium as he had been selected for the Egypt team to play in the 1920 Olympic Games. Egypt played their only match in the tournament v Italy in Ghent. 2,000 fans saw the Italians win 2-1.

"Rather than then return home to Egypt, he decided to cross the Channel and arrived in England. His ambition was to learn to be an engineer whilst also playing some football. Derby County manager Jimmy Methven was in his office one day when a well-dressed visitor walked in. Jimmy was a Fifer and the dark complexioned stranger asked him in broken English for a ticket. Jimmy asked if it was a stand ticket he was wanting only to receive the unexpected reply, ‘No me want ticket to play the game’.

"Methven asked Abdullah if he could play football and was told in reply, ‘Oh yes, and very much good player’. Methven invited him out onto the pitch to show his paces and the sequel was a trial in Derby’s reserves in the Central Alliance v Retford Town. The local paper reported he had great control over the ball and had pleased the crowd with his display. Retford won 3-1 but Abdullah was on the scoresheet. Jimmy Methven then signed him for Derby."

David added: "On his first team debut at the Baseball Ground, the story goes that he allegedly caused consternation then by running onto the sand covered pitch shouting 'Where’s me camel?'

"However, what he actually was shouting it turned out was 'Where’s Mick Hamill?', an Irishman making his debut for opponents Manchester City on that day who was to be his direct opponent. Abdullah’s debut display raised the spirits of the Derby fans. He put the Rams ahead after 21 minutes and helped them deliver a 3-0 win over City. He had shown how clever a player he was but was a little on the slow side. Ex-Cowden star Willie Paterson played alongside him for Derby. However, in 1922, Derby had a clear out and Abdullah was released".

What happened next was summarised by Cowdenbeath boss Sandy Paterson in an article published in 1930: "I should like to pay tribute to a player, who, I am afraid, was up against a serious obstacle in his spell with us.

"I refer to the Egyptian, Tewfik Abdullah, who played for us for a short spell. Abdullah, I consider to be one of the smartest footballers I ever saw, but he did not have great chance here. He learned his football on the sands around Cairo, his native town, playing with the British troops during the war, and it was said of him that he could hit the ball harder with his bare feet than most players could with football boots.

"Abdullah's talent was spotted at Cairo by one of the Derby County officials who was serving with the forces there at the time, and he recommended him to the management of his club, who signed him. He was a member of the Derby playing staff at the same time as my son Willie, who had gone there from Cowdenbeath in 1921, and they became friendly. Willie spoke well of him to me, and for season 1922-23 he came north to play for Cowdenbeath.

"Unfortunately, he did not have a great deal of luck with us. When he had been playing only a short time he sustained a broken arm. When he left us he went to America, where, incidentally, he resumed his friendship with Willie, and is now home in Cairo coaching".

Thus Tewfik Abdullah lined up at Central Park at the start of season 1922/23. He was found digs up in Stenhouse Street. The Courier said, 'he was a very clever player' but David added: "The were way off the mark in suggesting he was also fast.

They reported: ‘Cowdenbeath's team, now in training at Central Park, travel to Kelty to get the benefits of the Turkish baths, where Abdullah is in his glory’.

After a season at Central Park, Abdullah played for Bridgend Town and Hartlepool United, before enjoying a good career in the USA with clubs such as Providence Clamdiggers and Fall River Marksmen. He played for the American Soccer League v Uruguay in 1927.

Concluded David: "Following his retirement as a player, he became the manager of the Farouk Club. Subsequently, he became the manager of the Egyptian National Football Team during the 1940s and most prominently of all, at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki.

"He provided a colourful if brief chapter in the football life of Cowdenbeath with his one season cameo as an Egyptian who swapped the pyramids of Egypt for the coal bings of Fife.

"At the Baseball Ground, he had been nicknamed 'Toothpick' and in the USA he was nicknamed Happy, but he was known as 'Abe' during his Central Park sojourn. He earned the ultimate accolade in Fife when a local miner named his greyhound 'Abe' in his honour.

"Another more successful dog was named Abdullah for the same reason."


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