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Friday, 23 July 2021

Zamalek will be in Qatar

Egypt’s Zamalek take on Esperance of Tunisia for the African Super Cup, a match that was close to being scratched

Inas Mazhar , Tuesday 11 Feb 2020
Zamalek fans
Zamalek fans in Qatar

Zamalek, who won the Confederation Cup last season, will face Champions League winners Esperance in Doha on Friday 14 February.

Excitement has been building across Qatar ahead of the one-off match which is scheduled to take place at the Thani Bin Jassim Stadium.

The trophy tour ahead of the showpiece match got underway last week at Al Bidda Tower, home of the Qatar Football Association (QFA), Qatar Stars League and Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy. Over the weekend, the trophy visited Qatar Sports Club and Doha Festival City, among other locations.

By Tuesday, all tickets were sold of the game which is one of the biggest matches in African club football. According to reports, all tickets dedicated to the Egyptian club were sold out as soon as they were released. An estimated 250,000 Egyptians are based in Qatar, thousands anxiously waiting to receive the Egyptian champions.

Tickets were priced in two categories (QAR 50 for Category 1 & QAR 20 for Category 2).

This is the second time the Super Cup will take place in Doha following an agreement between the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the QFA. The match will also take place in the Qatari capital in 2021 and 2022.

Esperance will be playing competitive football in Doha for the fourth time in the last year. They finished as runners-up in last season’s CAF Super Cup following a narrow defeat to Morocco’s Raja Casablanca, before winning the Tunisian Super Cup thanks to a 2-1 victory over Club Athlétique Bizertin. In December, they finished fifth in the FIFA Club World Cup after beating Qatari side Al Sadd SC at Khalifa International Stadium.

Esperance are aiming to win the CAF Super Cup for the second time in their history after previously winning the event in 1995. Zamalek, meanwhile, are aiming to lift the trophy for the fourth time after victories in 1994, 1997 and 2003.

 “Qatar’s football family is delighted to once again welcome the very best teams from African to Doha to compete for this prestigious trophy. Last season’s edition was a huge success and the match proved to be exciting, exhilarating and enthralling. I have no doubt that this year’s installment will be no different,” Khalid Al Naama, communications director for the CAF Super Cup Local Organising Committee, said.

“We look forward to welcoming fans of both sides, along with football enthusiasts from across Qatar, to Thani Bin Jassim Stadium on 14 February,” Al Naama added.

Since the announcement of Qatar as host of the 2020 CAF Super Cup in December 2019, Zamalek have publicly declared their refusal to play in Qatar unless being given assurances by CAF that the club’s delegation would be safeguarded by Qatari authorities.

Tensions have been on the rise since Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar in June 2017 for supporting terrorism.

In repeated statements, Zamalek’s controversial chairman Mortada Mansour has insisted that the White Knights would not take part in the Super Cup unless their safety was guaranteed, citing alleged security threats.

Mansour said he and his two sons had received death threats from a Qatari intelligence officer. He did not provide substantial evidence to back up his claims.

One of Mansour’s sons, Ahmed, met CAF President Ahmad Ahmad in the Moroccan capital of Rabat last week to discuss the issue, after which Zamalek published a letter they had received from CAF, with the African governing body forwarding a lengthy letter from the Qatari Football Association head Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani that it said serves as a “safety guarantee”.

“I am pleased to reiterate our full commitment when hosting a successful event, adhering to the highest international standards. All to ensure the enjoyment, security and safety of the participants,” Al-Thani wrote in the letter.

CAF said Qatar’s FA letter had addressed Zamalek’s concerns.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 February, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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