Halfway hopes

Alaa Abdel-Ghani , Tuesday 7 Mar 2023

Midway through the African Champions League and Confederation Cup, a couple of Egyptian football clubs are heading for the quarter-finals while two others remain in the grey area

Ahly during training
Ahly during training


Three games into the African Champions League group stage and with three remaining, Ahly notched their first victory in the campaign when they eased past Coton Sport of Cameroon 3-0 on Saturday, despite missing six key players.

The win gave the Cairo giants a badly needed push if they are to qualify for the quarter-finals. They now have four points in Group B, three points behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa. Al-Hilal of Sudan are in second place with six points. Coton Sport suffered their third successive defeat and remain bottom of the table with no points.

Ahly had a rough start to the tournament after losing 1-0 to Al-Hilal in their opening game. A week later, Ahly, who are the record 10-time winners of this tournament, were held to a disappointing 2-2 draw at home against Sundowns.

Ahly are scheduled to face Sundowns away on Saturday 11 March before facing Coton Sport in Cameroon in the penultimate group game. Their last game is against Al-Hilal in Cairo.

Ahly are in a far better position that their crosstown rivals Zamalek who in the same tournament have just one point in Group D, also after three games. The group is led by Tunisia’s Esperance with a perfect nine points, followed by Al-Merrikh of Sudan with four. Belouizdad of Algeria have three points, leaving five-time champions Zamalek in the cellar.

Zamalek opened their campaign with a 1-0 loss to Belouizdad at home, tied with Al-Merrikh 0-0 away, then lost away 2-0 to four-time champions Esperance.

Zamalek must also contend with the absence and ensuing chaos of the club’s President Mortada Mansour being jailed for one month last week after he was found guilty of defaming Ahli’s President Mahmoud Al-Khatib.

Zamalek have not won the title since 2002 and are in danger of exiting the group stage for the third season in a row.

Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, the defending champions, jumped atop Group A with six points. Petro de Luanda of Angola have four, tied with Algerian side JS Kabylie. Vita Club of the DR Congo have three points in what is a tight group.

In the less prestigious African Confederation Cup, also at the halfway point, FAR Rabat of Morocco top Group C with seven points. Pyramids and Future, two Egyptian clubs, follow with five and two points respectively. With just one point at the bottom are ASKO of Togo.

In their most recent games, Rabat had blanked Future 2-0 at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Morocco while Pyramids edged ASKO 1-0.

Neither Egyptian club has ever won the tournament. Future, winless after their first three games, are debutants while Pyramids came close, reaching the final of the 2019-2020 edition before losing to RS Berkane of Morocco who are last year’s champions but who failed to qualify for the group stage this year.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 9 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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