A new Egyptian football league season begins, headed by defending champions Ahly who are odds-on favourites to repeat after bagging two other titles in a triumphant one-week span.
After winning the league title a whopping 18 points ahead of second-place rival Zamalek, Ahly’s first fixture in the 2020-2021 campaign will be against Misr Al-Makasa on Sunday 13 December at Ahly Stadium, followed by Mehalla on 18 December.
Ahly will face Zamalek on 28 December at Borg Al-Arab Stadium in Alexandria, followed by Wadi Degla on 1 January of the new year at Ahly Stadium, then newly promoted Ceramica Cleopatra on 8 January at New Suez Stadium. They will play Ittihad of Alexandria on 11 January and Al-Entag Al-Harbi on 15 January at Ahly Stadium.
It was an impressive year for Ahly in spite of Covid-19 and the accompanying lockdown. Despite the virus and the loss of three key players — Ahmed Fathi, Ramadan Sobhi and Sherif Ikrami who signed for formidable opponents Pyramids this season — Ahly managed to equal FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona’s record after winning the treble for the second time in the history of the club following the team’s victory over Talaea Al-Geish in the Egyptian Cup final.
Both FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona won the treble only two times in their history. Bayern Munich won it in 2013 and 2020, while Barcelona took it in 2009 and 2015.
In an epic Egyptian Cup final, Ahly edged a plucky Talaea Al-Geish side 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw to win a record-extending 37th Egypt Cup title and complete their first treble in 13 years.
Fresh from clinching the African Champions League with a dramatic 2-1 late victory over Cairo rivals Zamalek on 27 November, Ahly set about winning the last remaining major trophy this season and they looked to be cruising in the local cup final when substitute Mahmoud Kahraba fired them in front moments following his second-half introduction.However, Al-Geish, who proved a handful for their illustrious opponents throughout, equalised in stoppage time with a header from substitute Nasser Mansi.
Resorting to penalty kicks, Al-Geish’s Mansi and Khaled Setouhi wasted their spot-kicks, but Ahly’s Ayman Ashraf and Magdi Afsha too squandered their efforts.
Ahly beat Talaea Al-Geish for the Cup title
Ex-Ahly fullback Hussein Al-Sayed stepped up to force a sudden death but he fired against the post, handing his former club the title and denying Al-Geish their first ever trophy.
Ahly’s hat-trick of titles brought back the glory days of iconic Portuguese coach Manuel Jose who masterminded the team’s only other treble in the 2006-2007 season.
New South African coach Pitso Mosimane also enjoyed his second triumph at the helm, having steered the club to a long-awaited Champions League crown last month.
Ahly can still add two more titles to their trophy-laden cabinet this year as they will face Al-Geish again in the Egyptian Super Cup and Morocco’s RS Berkane in the African Super Cup.
Mosimane heaped praise on his players, likening them to the golden generation led by superstar Mohamed Abu-Treika that won a host of major titles in the 2000s.
“I am very proud of my players. They have done a great job today and deserve all the credit. They are making history, just like the generation of Abu-Treika,” the South African coach said after the game. “We still have two titles to win. Nothing is guaranteed but if you win three it means you can win four and five. We have to work very hard to continue winning,” Mosimane added.
Mosimane was appointed as Ahly coach on 2 October, succeeding Swiss boss Rene Weiler. The Red Devils had already won the domestic league by the time he arrived, but he still led them to the Champions League and cup crowns.
As for the FIFA Clubs World Cup, to take place in Qatar from 1 to11 February 2021, Ahly will represent Africa.
Bayern Munich will represent Europe after winning the UEFA Champions League final in Lisbon. The German giants defeated Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 on 23 August.
The Asian representative is not yet decided as the AFC Champions League final will be played on 19 December in Doha. IR Iran side Persepolis are awaiting their opponents who will be determined at the conclusion of the East Zone qualifiers.
The CONCACAF representative will be determined via the CONCACAF Champions League final, to be held in Orlando, in the US, on 22 December.
With no winner declared for 2020 concerning OCEANIA, OFC’s Executive Committee nominated a representative from the confederation based on the principles within the competition regulations of the OFC Champions League.
Article 31 of the OFC Champions League 2020 Regulations establishes a ranking of each team after the group stage, determined in descending order of (a) points, (b) goal difference, and (c) greatest number of goals.
Auckland City went through pool play in this year’s OFC Champions League unbeaten as they topped Group D with three wins from as many matches, while scoring nine goals without conceding any, which put them at the top of the rankings.
The New Zealanders will therefore participate in the FIFA Club World Cup for the 10th time. The winners of the Copa Libertadores final will represent South America. The semi-finals and final are currently scheduled to take place on 30 January 2021.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 December, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.