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Preview | Al Ahly, Zamalek face off in historic CAF Champions League final

The 2020 CAF Champions League final in Cairo on Friday between Egyptian giants Al Ahly and Zamalek will be the first pitting fierce rivals from one country against each other.

Kick-off is at 21:00 SA time.


The match, to be held under the slogan “no to fanaticism”, will bring together two of the clubs whose clashes have long dominated local and continental competitions.

Ahly have won the Champions League eight times and been crowned Egyptian Premier League champions on 42 occasions.

Zamalek have won the premier African club competition five times and have been Egyptian champions 12 times.

Despite their popularity and wide fan bases, Egypt’s most successful player, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, has never played for either club, lining up with Al Mokawloon Al Arab instead.

The decision not to permit spectators at the 74 000-capacity Cairo International Stadium came in a joint statement by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Egyptian Football Federation (EFA).

Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, they said “their top priority was to ensure the safety of Egyptian and African football families”.

Besides health concerns, the historic rivalry between Ahly and Zamalek raised fears of clashes between supporters.

Fans should be able to watch the match on television in clubs or youth centres, but not in cafes and public places.

The rivalry between the clubs peaked in recent years, especially on social media after the 2019 Egyptian Super Cup, a match Ahly won 3-2.

Supporters of Ahly then took to the street in several regions to celebrate before being “infiltrated” by fanatics, who were arrested.

“Ahly and Zamalek are like brothers and, unfortunately, the fanaticism is only among fans,” said retired Zamalek and Egypt star Hazem Emam.

“(FIFA’s) decision on holding the FIFA Club World Cup in Doha next February has raised the intensity of the confrontation,” said former Ahly player Walid Salaheldin.

Coronavirus fears

Coronavirus fears have loomed large after the infections of Ahly’s Walid Soliman, Mahmoud ‘Kahraba’ Abdelmoneim and Saleh Gomaa and Zamalek’s Mahmoud ‘El Wensh’ Hamdy and assistant coach Medhat Abdelhady.

Two other Zamalek players, Hazem Emam and Mohamed Hassan, have recovered from Covid-19.

Former star Emam says Ahly have switched to “collective football” since South African coach Pitso Mosimane took over in September, while Zamalek’s recently hired Portuguese coach Jaime Pacheco has changed little.

Mosimane has previously beaten Zamalek in a final – guiding Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa to a 3-1 aggregate victory in 2016. 

The South African will rely on goalkeeper Mohamed el Shennawy, star Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy, Tunisian Ali Maaloul, Malian Aliou Dieng and Nigerian Junior Ajayi.

“Mosimane has freed the players from restrictions imposed by former coaches, which tips the scales in his players’ favour against Zamalek’s players and their individual skills, especially (Achraf) Bencharki and Ferjani Sassi,” said Salaheldin.

Pacheco, who returned to Zamalek six years after first coaching the White Knights, said he trusted his players, their strong personalities and ability “to please the fans”.

Zamalek won the Egyptian Super Cup last February against Ahly after a penalty shootout.

The Zamalek stars include veteran Tarek Hamed, Tunisian Sassi, Moroccan Bencharki, Ahmed ‘Zizou’ Sayed and Mostafa Mohammed.

Ahly reached the Champions League final by defeating Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 2-0 away and 3-1 at home while Zamalek overcame the other Casablanca giants, Raja, 1-0 away and 3-1 at home.

The Cairo clubs faced off in the Champions League in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2013 with Ahly winning five matches and the other three drawn.

List of CAF Champions League winners ahead of the 2020 final:

8: Al Ahly (EGY)

5: TP Mazembe (COD), Zamalek (EGY)

4: Esperance (TUN)

3: Canon Yaounde (CMR), Hafia (GUI), Raja Casablanca (MAR)

2: Entente Setif, JS Kabylie (both ALG), Asante Kotoko (GHA), Enyimba (NGR), Wydad Casablanca (MAR)

1: ASEC Mimosas, Stade Abidjan (both CIV), Club Africain, Etoile Sahel (both TUN), Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates (both RSA), Oryx Douala, Union Douala (both CMR), CARA (CGO), FAR Rabat (MAR), Hearts of Oak (GHA), Ismaily (EGY), Mouloudia Alger (ALG), V Club (COD)


– Competition called African Cup of Champions Clubs from 1964-1996

– No competition in 1965

CAF Champions League leading scorers ahead of 2020 final: 

11: Aribi (Etoile Sahel/TUN)

 8: Mohamed (Zamalek/EGY)

 7: Bencharki (Zamalek), Muleka (TP Mazembe/COD)

 6: El Shahat (Al Ahly/EGY), Mabululu (Primeiro Agosto/ANG)

Factfile for 2020 CAF Champions League finalists Al Ahly of Egypt:

Full name: Al Ahly Sporting Club 

Formed: 1907

Grounds: Cairo International Stadium/Al Ahly Stadium (capacities: 75,000/30,000)

Nickname: Red Devils

Coach: Pitso Mosimane (RSA)

Standard team: Mohamed el Shennawy, Mohamed Hany, Yasser Ibrahim, Ayman Ashraf, Nabil Maaloul (TUN), Aliou Dieng (MLI), Amr el Sulaya, Hussein el Shahat, Junior Ajayi (NGR), Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy, Marwan Mohsen

Path to final: Preliminary round – Atlabara (SSD) 13-0 (9-0 4-0); last 32 – Cano Sport (GEQ) 6-0 (4-0 2-0); Group B – Etoile Sahel (TUN) 1-0 0-1, Al Hilal (SUD) 2-1 1-1, Platinum (ZIM) 2-0 1-1; quarter-finals – Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA) 3-1 (2-0 1-1); semi-finals – Wydad Casablanca (MAR) 5-1 (3-1 2-0)

Scorers: 6 – El Shahat; 4 – Maaloul, Salah Mohsen; 3 – Walid Soliman; 2 – Ajayi, Walid Azaro (MAR), Hamdy Fathy, Magdy, M. Mohsen; 1 – Dieng, Ahmed el Sheikh, Ahmed Fathy, Ibrahim, Ramadan Sobhy, Lebohang Maboe (Sundowns) own-goal, Mustafa Salim (Atlabara) own-goal  

CAF titles: 8 – Champions League, 6 – Super Cup, 4 – African Cup Winners Cup, 1 – Confederation Cup

Factfile for 2020 CAF Champions League finalists Zamalek of Egypt:

Full name: Zamalek Sporting Club 

Formed: 1911

Ground: Cairo International Stadium (capacity: 75,000)

Nickname: White Knights

Coach: Jaime Pacheco (POR)

Standard team: Mahmoud Abou Gabal, Ahmed Eid, Abdallah Gomaa, Tarek Hamed, Mahmoud Alaa, Mahmoud el Wensh, Ahmed ‘Zizo’ Sayed, Ferjani Sassi (TUN), Mostafa Mohamed, Islam Gaber, Achraf Bencharki (MAR)

Note: El Wensh also known as Mahmoud Hamdy and Mahmoud Attia

Path to final: Preliminary round – Dekedaha (SOM) 13-0 (6-0 7-0); last 32 – Generation Foot (SEN) 2-2 (1-0 1-2, Zamalek won on away goals); Group A – TP Mazembe (COD) 0-0 0-3, Primeiro Agosto (ANG) 2-0 0-0, Zesco Utd (ZAM) 2-0 1-1; quarter-finals – Esperance (TUN, holders) 3-2 (3-1 0-1); semi-finals – Raja Casablanca (MAR) 4-1 (3-1 1-0)

Scorers: 8 – Mohamed; 7 – Bencharki; 2 – Alaa, El Wensh, ‘Shikabala’; 1 – Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Karim Bambo, Omar el Said, Mohamed Ounajem (MAR), Sassi, Djibril Diop (Generation) own-goal   

CAF titles: 5 – Champions League, 4 – Super Cup, 1 – African Cup Winners Cup, 1 – Confederation Cup

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