Zamalek's hardcore fans (File photo: El-Sayed Abdel-Qader)
Zamalek will begin life without their fans in the African Champions League when they host Ethiopia's Saint George in the first leg of the competition's round of 16 on Saturday.
The Cairo club enjoyed the support of their die-hard supporters during two Champions League games against Chad's Gazelle and Vita Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo but had to pay for the misbehaviour of their fans during the home legs.
Zamalek fans ripped off many seats at the army-owned Borg El-Arab Stadium in Alexandria against Gazelle and their Ahly counterparts threw fireworks onto the pitch during another Champions League encounter, prompting Egyptian authorities to impose an indefinite crowd ban.
The angry Zamalek supporters laid siege to the sports ministry's premises earlier this week in protest at the decision but the ministry insisted the crowd ban would take immediate effect.
The White Knights will face Saint George at another army-owned stadium in Cairo, which initially refused to host the game but eventually bowed to pressure from the success-starved club.
"The club would like to thank sports minister El-Amry Farouk and interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim for their persistent efforts to rescue the upcoming Champions League game against Saint George," Zamalek's vice-president Sabri Serag said on the club's website.
"Both men played a patriotic role in asserting that the game would take place at the Air Defence Stadium as they understood the situation of the club, which is representing Egypt in the competition.
"I would also like to thank our fans for opting against attending the match ... to preserve the team's status in the competition," he added.
Zamalek are enjoying a superb run in the Egyptian Premier League as they collected maximum 24 points from their first eight games, enhancing their chances of ending a nine-year league drought. They are also chasing their first Champions League title since 2002.
Highly-rated forward Mohamed Ibrahim, Zamalek's best performer so far this season, is doubtful for the Saint George game due to a back injury.
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