Ahly coach left in the dark ahead of League match

AFP, Saturday 23 Apr 2011

Ahly coach Manuel Jose finds it inexplicable that the Egyptian embassy in Zambia hasn’t replied to their request for logistical information on the country and fears the African Champions League match might be affected

Manuel Jose

The record six-time winners of the premier Pan-African club competition wanted information on opponents ZESCO United and match venue Ndola in the Copperbelt ahead of a Saturday showdown.

But Portuguese Jose, the architect of four Champions League triumphs, told reporters after a domestic league match that the Lusaka embassy had not even acknowledged the 'Red Devils' request.

"Unfortunately, the reaction of the embassy was the opposite to what we expected," revealed the 63 year-old coach, who this year started a third spell in charge of the most popular Arab football club.

"They did not even reply to us. Maybe they support Zamalek and do not like us," he said referring to their bitter Cairo rivals and five-time Champions League winners.

"All the other embassies we contacted in the past helped us with information about teams we were about to play, and even about accommodation, food and the country.

"The Lusaka embassy refused to help us which is actually not helping Egyptian football. Now we will have to play against a team that we know nothing about so far," added an upset Jose.

Ahly—co-favourites with 2010 FIFA Club World Cup runners-up TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo for the $1.5m grand prize—were rusty when squeezing past SuperSport United of South Africa in the last round.

Their rustiness was due to competitive inactivity during the successful popular uprising and overthrow of authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak, however, the resumption of the national championship this month will sharpen the Egyptians.

The Devils are good at snatching the away goals that count double in the event of an aggregate deadlock. The Zambians will have to be wary of 2010 Africa Cup of Nations lead scorer Mohamed “Geddo” Nagy.

ZESCO had little difficulty eliminating Liga Muculmana of Mozambique and Young Buffaloes of Swaziland and five-goal Alfred Luputa is the leading scorer in the Champions League after two rounds.

Although still below their best, it would be a shock if Ahly failed to reach the last-eight group phase likely to be dominated once again by clubs from the north of the African continent.

Mazembe, seeking a record third consecutive title, are a probable exception as they should have the measure of 1992 champions Wydad Casablanca, provided they do not come unstuck in Morocco Saturday.

It does not help the Congolese that talismanic midfielder, Mputu Mabi is still serving a one-year ban for attacking a referee, but young Dioko Kaluyituka has emerged as another midfielder with a fondness for goals.

InterClube of Angola have home advantage over Mouloudia Alger of Algeria, 2010 runners-up Esperance of Tunisia entertain Diaraf of Senegal and Al-Hilal of Sudan host Club Africain in other first leg fixtures.

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