Favourable draw for Egypt's Ahly, Zamalek as Arab tournament springs back to life

Hatem Maher , Friday 5 May 2017

Ahly v Zamalek
File photo of a Cairo derby clash between Ahly and Zamalek (Ahram)

Egyptian giants Ahly and Zamalek were handed a favourable draw in the revamped Arab Club Championship on Friday as the tournament springs back to life following a four-year hiatus.

One-time winners Ahly were placed in Group A along with Jordan's Al-Faisaly, Algeria's NA Hussein Dey and Al-Wahda of the United Arab Emirates.

Ahly's Cairo rivals Zamalek, who also lifted the trophy once, were drawn in Group B along with Morocco's FUS Rabat, Saudi Arabia's Al-Nassr and Al-Ahed of Lebanon.

Group C was the toughest, featuring Tunisian side Esperance, traditional rivals of Ahly and Zamalek, as well as Saudi giants Al-Hilal, Sudan's Al-Merreikh and Naft Al-Wasat of Iraq.

New president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Ahmad Ahmad was among the high-profile figures who attended the draw, which took place at the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Cairo and Alexandria will host the Arab Championship from 22 July to 6 August.

The winners of each of the three groups will advance to the semis along with the best second-placed side.

The tournament was last held in 2013 when Algeria's USM Alger clinched the title.

Ahly were initially reluctant to join the tournament, given their hectic summer schedule due to their participation in the African Champions League, but they eventually agreed to take part amid reports that they might field a weakened side.

The lucrative financial rewards include a $2.5 million for the winner, equalling those offered by CAF for its flagship African club competition.

The tournament was held over the course of the season from 2003-04 to 2008-09 and named the Arab Champions League as the Union of Arab Football Associations (UAFA) sought to emulate the prestigious European Champions League.

Ahly were crowned champions in 1996 when they defeated Morocco's Raja Casablanca 3-1 in Cairo while Zamalek claimed their maiden title in 2003 at the expense of Kuwait club, also at home.

The full draw:

Group A: Ahly (Egypt), Al-Faisaly (Jordan), NA Hussein Dey (Algeria), Al-Wahda (UAE)

Group B: Zamalek (Egypt), FUS Rabat (Morocco), Al-Nassr (Saudi Arabia), Al-Ahed (Lebanon)

Group C: Al-Merrikh (Sudan), Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Naft Al-Wasat (Iraq), Esperance (Tunisia)

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