by Khaled al-Ashri
Dr. Karam Kurdi is one of the most prominent figures in the pharmaceutical industry and has established several of his own companies. He is well known for his unique ideas and principles and for speaking the truth no matter the consequences. Although he has many fans, he certainly has his fair share of enemies too.
Kurdi, a man whom controversy follows wherever he goes, opens his heart to Majalla and talks frankly about the heated issues surrounding sports, politics and economy in Egypt.
What pushed you towards the sports industry which is full of problems?
I believe public work is a disease which whoever is afflicted by will not get rid of easily. I’ve always worked in the public sector, starting from the Students’ Union in the University and ending with the Football Association.
In between these two major jobs I’ve worked in, I passed through many stations, mainly working with the National Democratic Party (ruling party in the era of former President Hosni Mubarak) where I was the Secretary in Alexandria. I was dismissed because I criticized it in a conference and called for the dismissal of those who started losing people’s sympathy.
Back then, the leader of the party was the late Kamal al-Shazly, he was there and took my request personally because he knew Egyptians did not want him. He decided to dismiss me from the party although I did not mention any names.
Why did you leave the political scene?
I listened to the advice of my friend Colonel Mohamed Abdul Salam Mahgoub, Alexandria’s former governor, when he told me to leave politics because I will not gain anything from being involved in the political world.
What happened in the latest meeting for the Football Association? Why did you retreat and apologize to the members of the council, whom you disagreed with and criticized, live on TV? Did anyone pressure you? Or did anyone promise you something, or maybe you feared a penalty?
I did not apologize to anyone, and I am not responsible for what was written in the media. I only explained to them that I did not intend to humiliate anyone and that they misunderstood my words. The moment I entered the meeting I decided to end all the problems due to the circumstances the association is facing. Thus, we decided to work as a team and to unite to achieve stability.
Before the meeting, did you also say that you would prefer the council to resign in order to avoid a crisis with current FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who stopped the activities in Mali due to the government’s intervention?
I did not announce that I would go in with the intention of resigning, but I said I would be with the majority and we will act collectively. If the resignation was the only solution we would go for it without causing any harm to Egypt.
The majority refused to resign before we follow the legal methods and communicate with FIFA in order not to face a difficult situation and be stuck there.
Will everyone end up resigning?
Of course… If there were only one or two cases, they would back before the majority’s opinion in this matter.
What about resorting to the General Assembly announced by the Association?
Honestly, I don’t know where this news comes from as they are wrong and this was not even discussed in anyway. Why would we resort to the General Assembly, which established the association in the first place? And what if it refused to resign? Will we let Egypt go through a dark tunnel?
Did you in fact attack some of the association’s members verbally for taking individual decisions?
I was in a hurry and concerned about what I was going to do next in the association to achieve many aspirations and dreams. Anxiety was the theme of the past stage due to the problems facing us, including the competitions, the problems with referees, the audience, stadiums and security crises; and now the crisis of the solution.
How will you deal with those you criticized in the coming period?
We have got rid of the state of tension among us, and things have returned to normal. In addition to that, the solution crisis will unite us more.
What about the deputy’s crisis?
This file should be closed in the meantime. Are we going to think about the deputy at a time where we are threatened to leave?
Who will manage the association while its president is not present?
No one will. Its president will manage it through one of the members.
Is this a suitable as a solution?
Of course not. I believe it is better to distribute the roles so that each one knows what to do.
What is the story behind the conflict between you and the advertising company that is sponsoring the EFA?
I am not against anyone, but I prefer transparency in my relations. I don’t like one-sided control as everyone should win in any matter. There should always be duties and rights, yet I discovered that some people crossed the red lines and played the roles of others, which I did not accept.
Is there a relation between your conflict with this company and your son’s advertising company?
Not at all since my son’s company works in a totally different field.
Was Egypt behind overthrowing President of CAF Issa Hayatou as some claim?
Many reasons were behind the overthrowing of Hayatou, including his stances with some African countries lately such as Algeria, Morocco and Madagascar, and him changing some of the articles in the regulations such as the article concerning candidacy after the age of 70.
Egypt was among the group that overthrew him. We should not forget that Hayatou has given a lot to Egypt, especially after the revolution in January 25, 2011, and he was lenient with Egypt amid the problems it was facing during that period.
Is the return of the audience to the stadiums part of confirming that security is provided?
The audience will absolutely play a major role, but fear of violence always puts us in an awkward situation. Everybody knows that security in Egypt is facing many challenges, topped by terrorism, and it does not need any extra pressure.
Faced with potential public violence, there will be a security response that could cause disasters, and then we will be obliged to face human rights organizations and reopen files we have already closed.
We succeeded in decreasing the rate of foreign rivalries and our relations with many foreign countries have become better.
Moreover, we sometimes fall as a prey for some wrong decisions taken by officials which lead to disasters such as raising the prices of visas, for which they later retracted, and the expenses of the ports that led to the departure of two large companies that worked in Egyptian ports. What is the role of Egypt’s businessmen?
This matter certainly requires a clear community involvement of entrepreneurs under the government’s organization. We need proper planning and investment law, and we need to choose wisely those who will supervise the work.
In Egypt we have many competencies like Ahmed al-Wakil, one of the country’s economists. He is a national man who I guess is the second to move in Egypt following President al-Sisi. He was elected head of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce.
What is your story with the drug crisis in Egypt? Do you have a role in controlling the market?
This is not true, and those saying that are paid to ruin my image, especially that there is no proof for what they say.
What about the drug crisis in Egypt?
Drugs are considered a commodity like any other and are susceptible to an increase in price, but the government is afraid to come close to this file noting that drugs and fuel are the only two commodities priced in Egypt.
The fuel price has changed several times, but fear was increasing every time the prices of drugs rose. I admire the new minister, who decided to eliminate fixed prices for drugs.
I admit that there is randomness in this decision, yet it had to be taken especially that it was a motive to preserve national production. The only problem is that it wasn’t adopted gradually with the increase of salaries, but it happened suddenly and needed courage.