One down, one to go

Marawan Zayed, Tuesday 3 Nov 2020

With the Egyptian football season under their belt, Ahly take renewed aim at the African Champions League, reports Marawan Zayed

Ahly celebrate winning their 42nd league trophy after beating Talaea Al-Geish 3-0

The already Egyptian champions Ahly concluded their local season in style, defeating Talaea Al-Geish 3-0 in the last preparation before the final of the African Champions League. The goals were scored by Walid Suleiman inside the first minute and Giraldo and Kahraba in the 18th and 36th minutes respectively.

Ahly finished the season with 89 points followed by runners up Zamalek with 71 points and Pyramids 65 points. Arab Contractors rounded up the top four with 54 points. Haras Al-Hodoud, FC Masr and Tanta will be relegated.

The top scorer of the league is former Ahly star and current Pyramids captain Abdullah Al-Said with 17 goals from only 25 games followed by Enppi’s Mohamed Sherif who notched 14 goals from 30 games.

Ahly’s manager Pitso Mosimane of South Africa thanked former Swiss coach Rene Weiler for his work. Mosimane arrived at the club after they sealed the title but expressed his delight at being given the chance to work with Africa’s Club of the Century.

“Winning the Egyptian Premier League with Ahly is something to add to my resume, and I thank [Ahly Club President] Mahmoud Al-Khatib for giving me the honour to coach the Reds,” Pitso said after the Talaea game.

“I arrived in Egypt with Ahly already having won the league and I am happy that I am yet to lose with them.” Mosimane also spoke about his former South African team Mamelodi Sundowns. “Mamelodi Sundowns is a big team and there we used to take Ahly as an example to follow and praise them in front of the players. I wouldn’t have coached Ahly if it wasn’t for my successes with Mamelodi Sundowns.” Mosimane stressed that his main aim now is to win the Champions League with the club which will only confirm that the Egyptian giants are still the biggest club in the continent. “Our main goal is to win the Champions League and we will fight for it. We have a lot of time until the Champions League final and I hope that we maintain our performance during that period. I ask the fans to be patient with the team because we have not reached the level we want so far, and we will reach the required level with time,” he added.

Mosimane has taken charge of Ahly in six games, winning five while drawing one against Pyramids FC. Under his charge, the Reds scored 12 goals while conceding only once.

The Champions League final will be played on 27 November in Cairo, the first time the final will be played as a single match.

Ahly are through to the final after crushing Wydad of Morocco 5-1 on aggregate.

Ahly’s fierce Egyptian rival Zamalek won the first leg of the semi-final against Raja of Casablanca 1-0. The second leg was scheduled for Wednesday 4 November.

Ahly are looking for a record-extending ninth Champions League. Their last win came in 2014.

Still in the Egyptian league, competitions director Hossam Al-Zanati resigned with the conclusion of the Egyptian Premier League for the 2019-20 season. “Coinciding with the end of the season, I am resigning from running the competition in which I have been honoured to work in,” Al-Zanati tweeted. “I was right some times and wrong on others, but I never deviated from what I saw as true and just,” he added.

“I thank everyone who helped and supported me – and they were many – and I wish everyone success in what is to come.”

The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) said in an official statement that Al-Zanati had, before submitting his resignation, laid down his full vision for the new season 2020-21 after meeting with clubs’ representatives, “especially with regard to the gathering up of the Olympic team prior to participating in the Olympic Games”.

As for Egypt’s national team, Hossam Al-Badri will now start his preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Togo’s home and away games on 11 and 14 November. Al-Badri is waiting for the second leg of the semi-final of the Champions league between Zamalek and Raja to decide on his full squad for the Togo games.

Egypt has collected just two points after ties with Kenya and Comoros.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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