The 2023/2024 Egyptian Premier League season kicked-off with Tala’a El Geish securing a 2-0 victory over Bank El Ahli, and while it was certainly a weird choice for an opening game, it’s an opening game that probably summed up the EgyPL most: nothing (new) ever really happens.

Of course, from the outlook, things would seem different. It’s a league that’s heavily covered, contains arguably the two biggest clubs in Africa, and has provided us with countless absurd moments over the years. However, apart from that, it’s weirdly stuck in a very recurring loop. Same storylines, same players, same coaches, and even the humorous moments have become quite tedious and predictable. 

This recurring of storylines is very evident when you look at the league’s trajectory over the past 10 seasons compared to its neighbors. The Moroccan Botola Pro has gone down to the wire twice in the past four seasons, yielding six different winners in the last decade. Algeria’s Ligue 1 has yielded four different winners, and while CR Belouizdad have had a stronghold on the league for the past four years, they’d won their last title in 1999/00 and were almost relegated at the start of the new century. Tunisia – while not as action-packed as Morocco and Algeria due to the presence of Esperance de Tunis – have yielded three different winners. While Taraji won the league title six seasons in a row, the re-introduction of the dual group system in 2021/22, brought about competition from US Monastir, and later saw Etoile du Sahel win the league last season in 2022/23.

Of course, there’s always the caveat that the Egyptian Premier League has only yielded seven different winners in its entire history. While that is true, the nineties brought about four very memorable title races with Al Ahly facing Ismaily in a championship play-off twice (1990/91 and 1993/94), and Zamalek fumbling two huge leads to their arch-rivals twice (1995/96 and 1996/97). The 00s, while largely dominated by Manuel Jose’s Al Ahly between 2004-2008, saw three very notable title races (all decided either in the final match-day or via a play-off) in 2001/2002, 2002/2003, and 2008/2009.

All of the aforementioned title races introduced several figures to Egyptian football folklore outside the top two/three. While 2018/2019 and 2020/21 immediately spring to mind as being two of the more memorable title races of the last decade, they were still largely Al Ahly and Zamalek, with the introduction of Pyramids doing nothing to momentarily shift the hegemony of the big two.

This recurring of storylines is present across the board, as well, instigated by how players and coaches are stuck in an eternal merry-go-round.

Sadly, no game was as fit to illustrate this as much as the league’s opener, despite the notable improvement in broadcasting quality compared to last season.

Tala’a El Geish were reunited with Abdelhamid Bassyouny at the back-end of last season for his third term as manager since 2020, while Bank El Ahli’s Nikodimos Papavasiliou – brought into the EgyPL via Wadi Degla – has coached three teams in Egypt in the last three years. Both starting line-ups had an average age of 28.8 and 31.1, only one player from the 22 was born after the year 1999 (incidentally, receiving the first booking of the new season, too), and, out of the 22 starting players, Godwin Chika was the only player was making his EgyPL debut. 

The game itself was as stale as you’d expect from a league that had a staggering number of 50 goalless draws in 2022/2023. Fouls, injuries, stoppages, coupled with the perfect contrast between desolate stands and angry coaches screaming their lungs out from each bench. Coincidentally, though, the deadlock was actually broken by Youssry Wahid – a substitute who was making his EgyPL debut – and assissted by Ahmed Meteb (who was later awarded the man of the match), who spent the entire 2022/23 season playing in the second division with Eastern Company. 

What the game did provide, however, is a moment of sheer absurdity when the scoreboard changed shape several times, disappeared, and then re-appeared again with both teams’ names written in English initials. 

It’s not all doom and gloom for this EgyPL season. though. For starters, there are reported efforts to improve the league’s branding and broadcasting quality. On the pitch, ZED FC have an ambitious squad, signing one of Egypt’s brightest talents in Mahmoud Saber, and in turn rescuing him from the grueling competition at Pyramids.

Lastly, and more importantly to the football purist, Baladeyet El Mahalla overcame a five-way promotion dogfight to secure their place in the top flight for the first time in 15 years, and will surely bring back memories of Talha Ragheb, Ashraf Kabonga, and their famous red and white jersey when they kick-off their campaign against Arab Contractors on Wednesday night.

Other than that, though, we should come to expect more the same.