Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1265, (8 - 14 October 2015)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1265, (8 - 14 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

All fall down

Despite playing at home, neither Ahly nor Zamalek will be going to the final of the African Confederation Cup, reports Abeer Anwar

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s two biggest football clubs could not reach the final of the African Confederation Cup after two extraordinary semi-final second leg matches played in Egypt over the weekend.

Zamalek beat Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia 3-0 on Saturday but could not get the one additional goal they needed, losing 5-4 on aggregate.

The following day, Ahly played one of their worst matches in years, losing 4-3 to South Africa’s Orlando Pirates to say farewell to the competition that the Red Devils were the defending champions.

In an emergency meeting held Tuesday morning, Mahmoud Taher, Ahly’s president, together with the club’s board members, sacked Ahly’s coach Fathi Mabrouk. The departure of Mabrouk was not unexpected after the Red Devils uncharacteristically failed to win a single title this season at both the local and the African levels.

Ahly’s football director Alaa Abdel-Salek was also fired in the shake up.

Former star player Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Shafi -- popularly known as Zizo -- took over as caretaker coach until a foreign manager is chosen to start the new season.

Zizo, 62, was previously given the nod when Hossam Al-Badri was sacked in 2010.

Taher said Ahly was “a big team that will recover in the new season. It currently has a crop of new faces who will rush new blood and new enthusiasm into the team”.

Mabrouk had been in charge since May when he replaced the Spaniard Juan Carlos Garrido. Mabrouk guided the team in 28 matches, winning 18, losing six and drawing four.

Sunday’s defeat virtually ensured the dismissal of Mabrouk who had to win the Confederation Cup to stand any chance of staying on.

But in the post match press conference, Mabrouk announced that he will continue with the team and that there was an “evil plan” against him. “I will not surrender and I will continue with the team after changing it upside down.”

Zizo’s first challenge is on Thursday 15 October when Ahly meet Zamalek in the Egyptian Super Cup in Al Ain Stadium in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates

Zizo, who is also head of the youth sector at Ahly, told reporters during his first press conference as coach that the Super Cup is difficult “but not impossible. We don’t have enough time to prepare, and the team is missing some key players like Hossam Ghali and Walid Suleiman who are with the military national team”.

He added that his players were facing a situation similar to that of every big team but was sure Ahly would get over it quickly.

Gamal Gaber, Ahly’s media officer, told Al-Ahram Weekly: “There are a number of names being bandied about as Ahly’s coach after the Super Cup but nothing is settled.” Those include Georges Leekens, former coach of Tunisia, Thomas Schaaf, the famed German head coach, and Marcos Bakita who took over Saudi Arabia’s national team and Al-Hilal Club, also of Saudi Arabia.

Gaber did say that Jose Vitor dos Santos Peseiro was no longer on the list.

Taher said he believed the Cairo giants would recover “and return back to past glories soon”, insisting that the club’s new coach has not yet been chosen.

“Any team in the world could stumble at any time, but we will be able to recover soon,” Taher told reporters after the emergency board meeting.

“We have sealed perfect deals during the summer transfer market and we should reap the benefits now.”

Until then, Ahly must rue their loss to the Orlando Pirates of South Africa. On Sunday, in Cairo, Ahly had a supposedly easy task. They had lost the first leg semi-final 1-0 to the Pirates. In the second leg Ahly were leading 2-0 and were seemingly coasting to a second straight Confederation final appearance. Gabonese import Malick Evouna scored in each half to give Ahly a 2-0 lead on the night and a one-goal overall advantage.

But then disaster struck. The Pirates scored three in succession through Kermit Erasmus, Thamsanqa Gabuza and Thabo Matlaba. Amr Gamal tied it at 3-3 but Orlando’s Thabo Rakhale sealed an improbable 4-3 victory.

Ahly lost complete control of their defence which the South Africans took advantage of quite well at the New Suez Stadium.

Thus the Ahly dream of defending their Confederation title for the second year evaporated. Ahly, winners of a record 19 African club titles, had also wanted to make up for losing the domestic league and cup in an unprecedented double failure for such a storied team.

The Pirates also avenged their 2013 defeat by Ahly in the final of the more glamorous African Champions League.

Meanwhile, Etoile du Sahel reached their third CAF Confederation Cup final after leading Zamalek 5-1 from the first leg in Sousse in Tunisia.  

Zamalek, seeking to become only the second club after Mont Cameroon to wipe out a four-goal, first-leg deficit in a Confederation Cup tie, set an example of hard work, reduced as they were to 10 men after only five minutes when defender Ali Gabr was shown the red card for an elbow. They fought back gallantly with three unanswered goals but could not score No 4 which would have sent them to the final for the first time as Etoile hung on for the aggregate win.

Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, nicknamed Kahraba, scored in the first half for the White Knights and converted a 55th-minute penalty in the second. Sahel’s Ghazi Abdel-Razek scored an own goal midway through the second half.

Etoile played with 10 men for the final 15 minutes at Petro Sport Stadium when Marouane Tej, who scored two first-leg goals, was sent off after a second caution.

After the match, Mortada Mansour, Zamalek’s president, went down to the pitch to congratulate the Etoile du Sahel players. “We were better but they deserved to qualify and this is sports. I am very happy with the team’s performance in this match and I think that Zamalek as a team will be unbeatable from now on.”

Ismail Youssef, Zamalek’s football manager, said he was proud of the players. “We lost but we won a new Zamalek team that won’t be an easy prey for any team from now on. I think after today’s excellent performance we will be able to win the Super Cup.”

Ahmed Mido, Zamalek’s ex-star and coach, said on his Twitter account that he was proud to be a Zamalek fan.

So, the final of the Confederation Cup, a second-tier African football club competition, will be between Etoile du Sahel and the Orlando Pirates during successive weekends on 20 and 29 November, with the first game to be played in South Africa.

Etoile, the third most successful African club after Ahly and Zamalek, won the Confederation Cup in 2006 and were runners-up two years later while the Pirates will be first-time finalists.

The Pirates, coached by Eric Tinkler, the 1996 South Africa Cup of Nations-winning midfielder, will be seeking a third title after winning the 1995 CAF Champions Cup (now CAF Champions League) and the CAF Super Cup the following year.

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