It’s a tale of two coaches for Egypt’s top guns Ahly and Zamalek. Zamalek announced earlier this week that Jaime Pacheco, the Portuguese coach who managed the club back in 2014, is back in charge after the surprise resignation of fan favourite Patrice Carteron.
Frenchman Carteron guided Zamalek to the Egyptian Super Cup title as well as the CAF Super Cup in the same week back in February but resigned after receiving a reportedly extremely lucrative offer from Saudi club Al-Taawon much to the dismay of Zamalek fans. Moreover, he also led the club to the CAF Champions League semi-finals, which will be played this month, after defeating Esperance Sportive de Tunis 3-2 on aggregate.
Zamalek Club President Mortada Mansour and its board decided to go with Pacheco after evaluating their options, hoping the incoming coach can win the Champions League. The appointment is still surprising since the 62-year-old coach lasted only two months when he managed the club three years ago before leaving to join Saudi club Al-Shabab. His record in the two months was impressive as he won nine games, lost one and drew two and enjoyed a good relationship with the players according to reports. The Portuguese manager coached several teams especially back home where he won the league with Boavista in season 2000/2001. He also had spells with Mallorca (Spain), Beijing Guoan and Tianjin Teda (China) in addition to Al-Shabab.
Pacheco’s first comments after the announcement were that he’s back “because he loves the club and that his main goal is to win the Champions League”. Zamalek will come up against Morocco’s Raja in the Champions League semi-final.
On the other hand, Zamalek’s fierce rivals Ahly look set to lose their manager Rene Weiler. The Swiss coach won this season in style, when there were six games left to play, while losing only once so far, in addition to guiding the club to the semi-finals of the Champions League where they’ll play against Morocco’s Al-Wydad.
Weiler did not officially announce that he wants to leave but all reports indicate he’s set to depart after the conclusion of the Champions League campaign. Since the stoppage of the league in March because of the coronavirus Weiler has voiced concerns over staying in Egypt during the pandemic, which led to a small rift with the club. He also requested a leave of absence after their domestic cup match on 30 September to return to Switzerland for a few days, leaving Ahly’s management concerned that he might not return.
The word coming from Weiler’s camp is that he is very happy at the club but finds it difficult to stay in Egypt without his family. Weiler is living in Cairo alone and says he does not want his family with him fearing for their safety in Egypt during the pandemic.
Sports TV anchor Ahmed Shobeir said on his show that Weiler made his wish official to the club’s president Mahmoud Al-Khatib insisting that the only reason he wants to leave Egypt is to be with his family back home. The coming few weeks will be decisive but, in all cases, the Swiss manager won’t leave before the Champions league ends, as did Carteron.
In the Egyptian domestic league, after 30 games and four games left, defending champions Ahly will win it again as they have amassed an unassailable 79 points. Zamalek currently lie second with 61 points.
The battle for second and third place is heated. Pyramids are in third with 54 points while the Arab Contractors are fourth on 49 points. The clubs have played 29 matches each.
Second and third place earn qualification to the Champions League and the second tier Confederation Cup.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.