Egyptian giants Al-Ahly and SC Zamalek clash in the Caf Champions League final on Friday at the Cairo International Stadium to decide who will be crowned African champions.
It’s not too far-fetched to say that this is the biggest game in African club football history as the continent’s two most successful teams – and fiercest rivals – battle it out head to toe for the biggest prize on offer.
These two have been fighting for decades domestically – for Egypt’s top cutlery – and on the continent for the Caf Super Cup 1994 and numerous knockout double heads in the Caf Champions League.
However, they have never clashed at this point, and neither side can afford to miss out on this showdown among the heavyweights from Cairo.
Both teams were given a coronavirus test ahead of the final on Friday, and both teams will be without multiple key players after a positive test.
Zamalek will miss the trio Abdallah Gom’aa, Youssef Obama and Mahmoud Hamdy El-Wensh, with the last of these three already missing after previously diagnosed with Covid-19.
The experienced left wingers Walid Soliman and Saleh Gom’aa will be absent for Ahly, while the Malian international Aliou Dieng will also be absent for the Red Devils after a positive test, although he has returned to international service after an injury.
One of the most important issues was whether fans would hit the Cairo International Stadium at 74. 000 places in the capital of the country are allowed to enter or not.
Earlier this week, however, the Confederation of African Football, in agreement with the Egyptian Football Association, announced that they had decided to play the game behind closed doors.
While population safety must be a top priority amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is a bitter disappointment for fans of these two giants who are missing out on a match that has the potential to be one of the most explosive games in the history of the African game.
Still, expect a feverish atmosphere in Cairo before the competition and – at least for a group of supporters – after the fight.
Beyond the obvious context of a collision between these two eternal rivals, there is also intrigue on the line of contact where South African Pitso Mosimane made a strong early impression on Ahly after signing at Mamelodi Sundowns.
He won the African title with Downs in 2016, becoming only the second South African manager to accomplish this feat. If he could win gold on Friday, he would break new ground for sub-Saharan African coaches.
He just can’t afford to lose to Zamalek as they are aiming for their first title since 2002, while Ahly last won gold in 2013.
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