Stuck in first gear

Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 28 Feb 2023

Egypt’s top two football teams are mired near or at the bottom of their respective groups in the African Champions League, reports Alaa Abdel-Ghani

Ahly, the record 10-time holder of the title, had to settle for a 2-2 draw against South Africa s Ma
Ahly, the record 10-time holder of the title, had to settle for a 2-2 draw against South Africa s Mamelodi Sundowns in Cairo s Al-Salam Stadium on Saturday.


Powerhouse Egyptian football clubs Ahly and Zamalek have yet to register a win in the group stage of the African Champions League.

Ahly, the record 10-time holder of the title, had to settle for a 2-2 draw against South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns in Cairo’s Al-Salam Stadium on Saturday.

On the same day, Zamalek, a five-time winner, sank to a 2-0 away loss to Esperance of Tunisia in Group D.

Ahly are now third in Group B with a single point from two games behind leaders Sundowns who have seven points, with Al-Hilal of Sudan on six points. Sundowns and Al-Hilal have played one game more.

Ahly had lost 1-0 away to Al-Hilal in their opening game.

Ahly are scheduled to face Cameroon’s Coton Sport at home on Friday 3 March at Al-Salam Stadium. Coton have no points from two games.

Zamalek, meanwhile, extended their winless run in the prestigious continental tournament to three games after losing to Esperance of Tunisia 2-0 at Stade Olympique Hammadi Agrebi.

The away win gave Esperance, with four African crowns, a perfect three-win start and nine points at the head of the group. Zamalek are last in the group with just one point at the half-way mark. Sudan’s Al-Merrikh lie in second with four points. At three points are Belouizdad of Algeria in third.

Zamalek opened their campaign in the group stage with a 1-0 loss to Belouizdad at home then tied with Al-Merrikh 0-0 away.

Zamalek will next face Esperance at home on Tuesday 7 March.

Despite the standings, the foreign coaches of Ahly and Zamalek insist all is not lost. “The team will do their best to avoid mistakes to return to the right path as soon as possible,” Ahly’s Swiss coach Marcel Koller told a post-game press conference. “I am depressed after the home draw with Sundowns as the team lost more scoring chances that could have secured the victory,” Koller, in his first season with Ahly, added.

Zamalek’s coach Jesualdo Ferreira stressed on Saturday that his team still entertained hopes of reaching the Champions League quarter-finals. “The chance of reaching the quarter-finals is still alive despite the loss to Esperance,” the Portuguese told the post-game press conference. “There are still nine points to grab. We just finished the first half of the group stage and we haven’t yet delivered our performance,” Ferreira, who steered Zamalek to the league and cup double last season, added.

In the second most important African football club tournament, the Confederation Cup, Tunisian forward Fakhreddin bin Youssef helped Cairo side Pyramids beat Togolese outfit ASKO de Kara 1-0 on Sunday at home in Group C, putting the Egyptian team in second place at the halfway point.

However, another Egyptian club in the same group, Future, had no such luck, losing to group leaders FAR Rabar 2-0 on Sunday at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Morocco.

The loss meant Future remained winless after their first three games.

Midway in the group stage, FAR Rabat lead with seven points. Pyramids have five points, Future two, and ASKO one.

Pyramids will face ASKO again in Togo on 8 March.

Egypt’s youth national football team also had a week to forget as the Under-20 team crashed out of the group stage in the African Championship held at home after being thrashed by Senegal 4-0 on Saturday.

Egypt came into the game needing a win after collecting only one point from their previous two games. Instead, they finished bottom of Group A with just one point and failed to score in their three games.

The first four teams, including Senegal which had already qualified before their game with Egypt, will represent the continent in the U-20 World Cup set to be played in Indonesia in May.

Egypt last participated in the U-20 World Cup in 2013 but were eliminated from the first round.

The best performance by Egypt in the U-20 World Cup was third place in 2001.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 2 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: