The final of the African Champions League on Friday in Cairo between the Egyptian giants Al Ahly and Zamalek will be the first between rivals from the same country.
It will also be the first to be decided by a game, not two legs.
It brings back two clubs whose clashes have long dominated local and continental competitions.
Ahly has won the Champions League eight times and has been crowned Egyptian Premier League champion 42 times, while Zamalek has won the first African club competition five times and has been Egyptian champion twelve times.
The decision to have no spectators at the Cairo International Stadium with a capacity of 74. A joint statement by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) made it possible to admit 000 spectators. .
Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, they said « their top priority is keeping Egyptian and African football families safe ». .
In addition to health concerns, the historical rivalry between Ahly and Zamalek raised fears of clashes between supporters.
Instead, fans should be able to watch the game on TV in clubs or youth centers, but not in cafes and public places.
« Ahly and Zamalek are like brothers and unfortunately the fanaticism is only among fans, » said retired Zamalek and Egypt star Hazem Emam.
Covid-19 has affected both teams, with Ahlys Walid Soliman, Mahmoud ‘Kahraba’ Abdelmoneim and Saleh Gomaa as well as Zamalek’s Mahmoud ‘El Wensh’ Hamdy and assistant coach Medhat Abdelhady suffering from the disease.
Former star Emam says Ahly has switched to « collective football » since South African coach Pitso Mosimane arrived in September, while Zamalek’s recently hired Portuguese coach Jaime Pacheco has changed little.
Mosimane knows what it takes to beat Zamalek in a final after leading his former South African club Mamelodi Sundowns to a 3-1 aggregate win in 2016.
Those he will rely on include goalkeeper Mohamed el Shennawy, Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy, Tunisian Ali Maaloul, Malian Aliou Dieng and Nigerian junior Ajayi.
« Mosimane has freed players from the restrictions imposed by former coaches, which tipped the balance in favor of Zamalek’s players and their individual skills, particularly (Achraf) Bencharki and Ferjani Sassi, » said Ahlys Walid Salaheldin.
The South African only wants to be the third coach to win the title with two different clubs.
The Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary won it with both Ahly (1982) and Zamalek (1993), while the Argentine Oscar Fullone won the cup in 1998 with Asec Mimosas from Ivory Coast and just a year later with Raja Casablanca from Morocco.
Pacheco, who returned to Zamalek six years after first coaching the White Knights, said he trusted his players, their strong personalities and their ability to « please the fans ». .
The Zamalek stars include the veteran Tarek Hamed, the Tunisian Sassi, the Moroccan Bencharki, Ahmed ‘Zizou’ Sayed and Mostafa Mohammed.
Ahly reached the Champions League final by beating Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 2-0 at home and 3-1 at home, while Zamalek beat the other Casablanca giants Raja 1-0 and 3-1 at home: 1 defeated.
The Cairo clubs have faced each other eight times in the Champions League, with Ahly winning five games and the other three drawing.
Al Ahly SC, CAF Champions League, Zamalek SC, Egyptian Premier League, Confederation of African Football, Pitso Mosimane, Cairo Derby, Wydad AC, Mamelodi Sundowns F. . C.. .
World news – AU – Ahly and Zamalek want to make history