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Friday’s CAF Champions League final between Al-Ahly and Egypt’s Zamalek, with the slogan “No fanaticism,” will not be the first only between two teams from one country, but rather a fiery historical confrontation between two rivals from one city who dominated continental and local competitions.

Al-Ahly and Zamalek largely summarize the sports scene in Egypt, and it is true that football player Mohamed Salah, the most successful Egyptian athlete at all, did not graduate from their ranks (the Arab Contractors), but the Cairo-based teams dominate the daily conversations of hundreds of millions of Egyptians inside and outside the country.

The former Secretary-General of the Arab League describes the Egyptian Amr Moussa Al-Ahly and Zamalek as “the two largest popular parties in Egypt.” Al-Ahly holds the record for winning the continental title (8) and the domestic league (42), compared to five continental titles for Zamalek, which is equal to the Congolese Democratic Mazembe and 12 in the domestic league.

Exessive sensitivity

Amid excessive sensitivity between the two camps, Minister of Youth and Sports Ashraf Sobhi invited the scheduled match to be held at Cairo International Stadium with the slogan “No to fanaticism.” However, a number of sports programs and former players in the two clubs continued to deviate from the text, which prompted the National Media Authority to issue an official decision to suspend a number of programs and their presenters and prevent the appearance of a number of guests.

Despite the denial of the official spokesman of the Council of Ministers, Nader Saad, she did not hesitate to impose a curfew during the match, as the capital and the Egyptian governorates are witnessing a state of security alert.

Mass attendance may be restricted to clubs and youth centers, with no view to them in popular neighborhoods and cafes.

And the African and Egyptian Confederations announced on Wednesday that the match will be held without fans, “in appreciation of the conditions that the whole world is going through in light of the spread of the Corona pandemic.”

The historical conflict between the masses reached its climax in recent years, especially on social media, after events witnessed in some provinces after their confrontation in the local Super Cup in September 2019, which ended 3-2 Ahlawyah at the Army Stadium in Burj Al Arab.

At that time, Al-Ahly fans took to the streets of Alexandria and a few governorates to celebrate, before they “infiltrated”, among them extremist elements, a large number of them were arrested.

“The players of Al-Ahly and Zamalek are brothers, and unfortunately, fanaticism is only among the fans,” said Hazem Imam, a former Zamalek player and the Egyptian national team.

While the management of the two clubs doubled the financial rewards to motivate their players, Walid Salah al-Din, a former Al-Ahly and international player, believes that “the decision of the International Federation sparked the meeting after announcing the establishment of the FIFA Club World Cup next February in Doha, where there will be great gains for the hero,” amounting to millions of dollars.

Corona

Corona’s obsession over the match looms, after the injury of Walid Suleiman, Saleh Jumah, and Milli Aliu Dieng from Al-Ahly, and Mahmoud Hamdi “Al-Wensh”, Youssef Obama and Abdullah Jumaa from Zamalek with assistant coach Medhat Abdel Hadi, while Hazem Imam and Muhammad Hassan and Al-Ahly player Mahmoud Abdel Moneim recovered Electrify. ”

The former star Imam believes that “what distinguishes Al-Ahly is his collective football since (South African coach Pitso) Musimane took over his training, compared to Portuguese (Jaime) Pacheco, who did not add any fingerprints to Zamalek.”

Musimani has the advantage of defeating Zamalek, as he led Mamelodi Sundowns to his only continental title at the expense of Zamalek in 2016 (3-0, 0-1).

Musimani, who replaced the Swiss Rene Fyler early last month, is counting on his locals goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy and playmaker Mohamed Magdi “Afsheh”, along with Tunisian professionals Ali Maaloul, financial midfielder Elio Diiang and Nigerian Junior Ajay.

Salah al-Din added, “Musimani freed Al-Ahly players from the restrictions imposed on them by former coach Fyler, which favors his players in the face of the experiences and high individual skills of Zamalek players, especially Bin Sharqi and Ferjani Sassi.”

On the other hand, the Portuguese Pacheco, who recently returned to Zamalek, has skilled players who are able to turn the tables on their traditional rival, who said about them, “I trust the players and their strong personality, and they are able to please the fans.”

The golden record

Zamalek, led by his former French coach Patrice Carteron, snatched the local Super Cup from Zamalek last February in the Emirates with a penalty shootout, and then beat it 3-1 in the domestic league last August.

Despite the absence of Mahmoud Hamdi “Al-Wensh”, one of the best defenders in Egypt now, Mahmoud Alaa seems able to compensate for his absence in addition to veteran midfielder Tariq Hamed and next to him, the Tunisian international Ferjani Sassi, and in front of them are the Moroccan attacking trio Ashraf Bin Sharqi and the internationals Ahmed Sayed “Zizou” And Mustafa Muhammad.

Al-Ahly seeks to consolidate its record (8) with a title absent from its coffers since 2013 and contest the Club World Cup for the sixth time, while Zamalek dreams of a sixth and first title since 2002 to participate in its first World Cup.

Al-Ahly reached the 13th final at the expense of Moroccan Wydad Casablanca (2-0 and 3-1), and Zamalek against Raja Casablanca (1-0 and 3-1), after the second leg was postponed more than once due to the outbreak of Corona in the ranks of the Moroccan champion.

The two teams faced four editions of the Champions League in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2013, and Al-Ahly won 5 matches and tied three times.

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