Top continental basketball icons Mostafa Kejo and Marwan Sarhan have reflected on their “long time” friendship off the court, despite facing each other as direct competitors on many occasions.
Kejo features for Egyptian giants Zamalek while Sarhan plays for their bitter rivals Al-Ahly, two clubs that are constantly locked in a battle for supremacy in the North African nation’s local basketball league.
An encounter between Zamalek and Al-Ahly is always a highly contested one, and stands out as one of the biggest derbies in continental basketball.
During such matches, Kejo and Sarhan – both power forwards – face each other directly, producing a mini-battle between themselves.
“I enjoy facing Mostafa in the games. We always have a little game between us and we go back and forth. He never wins though,” Sarhan told Times Sport in an exclusive interview last week, before adding:
“We are rivals on the court during the 40 minutes of the game. Once the game is over, we are brothers.”
Late last month, the duo was invited by the Basketball Africa League (BAL) to attend the NBA drafting ceremony in New York City, USA.
In the aftermath of the event, Times Sport caught up with them for an interview and asked them about what it has been like playing against each other, and how they relate off the court.
“Off the court Marwan and I have been good friends. We respect each other as opponents, (we) clearly think our respective teams are better but we enjoy common interests and (are) friends off the court,” Mostafa Kejo said.
After having taken part in many contests that their teams have had during the years, the two players know much about each other, and jokingly talk about what each needs to improve to become better.
“I keep telling him to develop his strength, so that I can meet a stronger opponent. He has not yet taken my advice. Maybe this season? We will see,” Kejo jokingly says about Marwan.
For Marwan, Kejo needs to work on his speed, if he will ever be able to meet him at the rim.
“I try to teach him to be faster to meet me at the rim, but he is still learning,” Marwan says.
Away from club duty, Kejo and Sarhan always meet in the national team camp, when they are summoned to represent the Egyptian basketball team.
“When Marwan and I are on the same team we combine our strengths to represent our country and put the best product on the court,” Kejo noted.
“We both have worn the Egyptian jersey proudly, and work as brothers with our teammates. We have brought a strong basketball threat to the floor in national team competitions with Marwan’s strong 3pt shooting and my tough rebounding skills,” he added.
Sarhan says it is “always fun” in the national team training camps, getting along with “the guys from all over.”
“Mostafa is part of the team, we depend on him for rebounding and walling up with the other big guys,” Sarhan told Times Sport.
Sarhan and Kejo played a lot of junior national competitions against one another and developed their friendships only when they started joining the national team camps together.
Currently, both are not with the national team but hope to represent Egypt again soon under Coach Roy Rana who has the Pharaohs destined for a World Cup return after missing the 2018 edition.
Asked about what they have learned from each other, Kejo credited Sarhan for teaching him to order for good shoes, while Sarhan lauded Kejo for teaching him to celebrate a victory with Arabic music.
“I have learnt so many things from Marwan. One of the best things Marwan has taught me is how to order shoes. It can be difficult to find shoes that fit, and he has a few tricks,” Kejo said.
This year, Sarhan’s Al-Ahly won the league and will represent Egypt in the third edition of the BAL, and this will be the first time opportunity for him to play in the prestigious continental tournament.
Champions of the Egyptian league automatically qualify for the continental showpiece.