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Friday, 15 November 2019

Ahly and Zamalek lock horns

The two football powerhouses meet in the Egyptian Super Cup, reports Marawan Zayed

Marawan Zayed, Wednesday 18 Sep 2019
Ahly and Zamalek  lock horns
Momen Zakaria
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It sounds funny but the Egyptian Super Cup game of season 2017/2018 is yet to be played until this very moment. But thankfully it will finally take place on Friday 20 September 2019. Better late than never.

Ahly and Zamalek are the two winning sides in the Super Cup for this year as well, but last year’s edition must be played first.

For the last two seasons, Ahly have been the league winners and Zamalek the Cup champions.

Once again it will be an Ahly-Zamalek battle as both giants will try to beat the other before they start the league clash. The Egyptian FA announced that only 10,000 fans will be allowed to attend the game, 5,000 for each team for security reasons.

Both teams have new managers in their ranks. Zamalek will be looking to make it two trophies in the space of two weeks after they managed to beat Pyramids FC in the final of the Egyptian Cup 3-0 in one of their best displays in years.

Micho, their new Serbian manager, will come up against Ahly’s Rene Weiler of Switzerland who’s yet to introduce himself properly to the fans.

Leaving the Super Cup and moving to the African Champions League, Zamalek suffered a shock defeat days after winning the Egyptian Cup when they lost to Senegalese club Generation Foot 2-1 in the first game of Round 32. Micho decided to rest many of the players who started the final of the Egyptian Cup. Mame Gueye scored both goals for Generation while substitute Mustafa Mohamed scored a vital away goal minutes after coming on to give his side a good chance of overcoming the loss in the second leg. A 1-0 win in the second leg will be enough for Micho’s men to qualify to the next round at the expense of the Senegalese club.

Again in the Champions League, Ahly almost sealed a placed in the group stage as they defeated Guinea’s Cano Sport 2-0 away from home in the first leg of round 32. Second half strikes from Walid Suleiman and Salah Mohsen ensured the second leg will be a walk in the park for the Egyptian champions even though they could have scored a few more in Guinea. Weiler expressed his delight with the team’s performance and said this was the perfect warm-up for their game against Zamalek on Friday 20 September.

In the Confederations Cup, Pyramids FC had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Shabab Blouzdad in Cairo as Pyramids came from behind to score an equaliser 15 minutes from time through Mohamed Farouk. Ten minutes before Farouk’s strike, Ahly’s former player Amir Saayoud scored the opening goal of the night to put his team in commanding position before the second leg. The second leg will be tough for the rising Egyptian side as they now must score to qualify for the next round.

Leaving Africa and moving to the Egyptian league, the Egyptian federation announced the full schedule of the first half of the league season. The league will kick off one day after the Super Cup on Saturday 21 September with the first day witnessing games between Ismaili and Gouna, Geish and the Arab Contractors and Pyramids against Enppi. 19 January 2020 will be the last day of the mid-domestic season.

Hossam Al-Zanati, who replaced Amer Hussein as head of the Competitions Committee, promised to give a fair chance to every league team this season after years of chaos with regards to the timing, schedule and whole organisation of the league matches.

One off-field topic is Momen Zakaria’s story which has been the talk of the town in the last few days after the Ahly player seemed out of sorts when he appeared as a guest in a football show on TV. Zakaria, who’s a very popular figure among Ahly fans, is suffering from a knee injury that is keeping him out of the game at the moment but it’s not his knee injury that is worrying his fans. He made it clear on TV that he is suffering from physiological problems due to what he went through in the past few months that also led to health issues for both his father and mother when they saw their son suffering.

The former Egypt international did not speak with ease and even the programme’s presenter told him this was the first time to see him in such a state, “as if you’re someone else”. Zakaria made it clear that Mahmoud Al-Khatib, the president of Ahly, was fully supporting him and that the club vowed to stay by his side until he recovers from both his injury and his physiological issues.

Moreover, thousands of Ahly fans went to Zakaria’s home and sang his name and songs for hours on 15 September until he went down to them in what was an incredible gesture by the fans to support their star.

The player expressed his extreme happiness and gratitude to what he saw from the club and its fans and vowed to come back stronger than ever.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 September, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

 

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