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2020 sports yearender: Treble winners Ahly in seventh heaven

In a series of stories, Ahram Online compiles the remarkable sporting events of 2020

Ahram Online , Thursday 31 Dec 2020
Ahly enjoyed a memorable season by winning the treble, including the long-awaited African Champions League trophy

Ahly emerged the winners from the longest ever season of Egyptian football after sweeping to a hat-trick of triumphs, maintaining their domestic hegemony after surviving the sudden departure of a coach who introduced an attractive brand of attacking football.

The Red Devils were one of few clubs to vehemently object to a proposed cancellation of the season after the coronavirus pandemic forced a halt of all sports activities in March.

Their public argument was that Egyptian Premier League clubs would incur huge losses as a result, but in reality there was another valid reason for them to pressure authorities into completing the season.

They enjoyed a stellar first half of the campaign; by the time the league was stopped they were on top with a staggering 16-point lead over their nearest challengers.

When the competition resumed in August following a five-month hiatus, they picked up where they left off before the stoppage, racking up wins and smashing records in the process to romp to a fifth consecutive league title with six rounds left.

Their records included an impressive haul of 89 points and 28 clean sheets.

They turned their attention to the lucrative African Champions League after wrapping up the league title but were in for an unforeseen setback -- Swiss coach Rene Weiler, the mastermind of their superb season, opted to leave for family reasons as the pandemic took an emotional toll on him.

They embarked on a frantic search for a new coach who can rescue their campaign and in South African Pitso Mosimane, who enjoyed a glorious spell with Mamelodi Sundowns, they found what they were looking for.

Mosimane kept faith with Weiler's attacking strategy and improved aspects of it, with Ahly's free-flowing football propelling them to an impressive 5-1 aggregate win over Morocco's Wydad in the Champions League semis.

The most remarkable moment of the season then came, and arguably one of the best in Ahly's history, as they scored a dramatic late goal to down bitter Cairo rivals Zamalek 2-1 in the Champions League final for a record-extending ninth crown, which has eluded them since 2013.

The season ended with another triumph as Mosimane guided Ahly to the domestic cup title to complete the team's first treble in 13 years.

"The opportunity that Ahly gave me after Rene Weiler’s departure was perfect for me. The fans’ reception also was incomparable. I have never been greeted like this in my life," Mosimane said in an interview with France Football.

"There is a lot of pressure when you coach a big club like Ahly as it is normal to win the league title and the board always targets the treble every year, which we did this season."

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