Zamalek marked the return of competitive football in Egypt with a 1-0 home victory over Kenyan outfit Ulinzi Stars to book their place in the CAF Champions League round of 32.
The Cairo club eased into the next round after a superb second-half goal from forward Mahmoud Abdel-Razek ‘Shikabala’ completed a comfortable 5-0 aggregate victory over a helpless Stars side.
It was the first football game in Egypt since the beginning of last month’s popular uprising in Egypt, an indication that the domestic league might be also resumed after an obligatory stoppage.
Zamalek will face either Tunisia’s Club Africain or Rwanda’s APR FC, who meet next month, in the round of 16.
Instead of chanting the usual songs to support their team, Zamalek fans opted to dedicate their cheers to the martyrs of the Egyptian revolution, which erupted on 25 January and culminated in the departure of former president Hosni Mubarak.
They waved a huge Egyptian flag and greeted the Egyptian military, which assumed control of the country on a temporary basis after Mubarak stepped down on 11 February.
The supporters, whose vociferous chants were the only source of attraction in an otherwise dull affair, also held aloft banners which read “sympathize with Libya” due to the ongoing unrest in the neighboring North African country.
Zamalek, who last played a competitive game on 21 January when they were held to a goalless draw by El-Entag El-Harby, looked sluggish in the first half and barely threatened the visitors.
The second half was also drab but the hosts managed to break the deadlock in the 58th minute after substitute Mohamed Ibrahim released Shikabala with a deft pass and the Egyptian international cut inside his marker and fired a powerful left-foot shot past the keeper.
Striker Amr Zaki was introduced shortly after to make his long-awaited return after recovering from a knee injury. He could have doubled Zamalek’s lead on a couple of occasions but headed wide with the goal at his mercy.