Africa’s oldest footballing rivalry (Cairo Derby) has an elevated prize ($2.5 million) on offer tonight when Egypt’s Al Ahly SC meet their arch rivals Zamalek SC in the CAF Champions League final at the Cairo International Stadium (19:00GMT).
World Soccer magazine has ranked clashes between the Cairo clubs among the 10 fiercest in the world.
Both teams have met eight times in CAF Champions League matches at group and semi-final levels with Al Ahly winning five with three draws. Zamalek SC are yet to win a game against their bitter rivals, Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League.
Bitter adversaries for more than a century, tonight’s clash for the top club trophy on the continent is the 216th meeting between the two teams in competitive games, each of whom can count their support in the Arabic speaking world in the tens of millions of fans.
Officially their rivalry started in the maiden Egyptian Premier League season in 1948/1949 with a 2-2 draw.
In their 215 meetings competitively, the Red Devils of Ahly have triumphant on 91 occasions, the White Knights of Zamalek 50 times and 74 matches drawn.
Al Ahly hold four Confederation of African Football (CAF) club competition records with the most CAF Champions League title (8), Super Cup (6) and CAF Cup Winners Cup (4) titles. They have also won the CAF Confederation Cup once (2014).
However, Al Ahly SC have not won a CAF competition since lifting the Confederation Cup trophy for the only time in 2014 — their longest spell this century without African silverware.
Zamalek have won the Champions League (5), Super Cup (4), African Cup Winners Cup (1) and Confederation Cup (1) for total of 11 titles, making them the equal second most successful club in CAF competitions.
The showpiece tonight, however, faces being overshadowed by COVID-19 infections with three Al Ahly possibly missing out, including veteran playmaker Walid Soliman. Zamalek will be without key defender Mahmoud El-Wensh, Egyptian press reports said.
Al Ahly employed South African coach Pitso Mosimane just under two months ago and he has continued their domestic dominance.
Al Ahly reached the final with a convincing 5-1 aggregate semi-final victory over Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca and won the Egyptian Premier League comfortably with a runaway 21-point lead over second placed Zamalek.
Zamalek SC also reached the final with a convincing win 4-1 aggregate semi-final victory over Raja Casablanca.
Both Cairo clubs eliminated Morrocan clubs in the semi-final of the competition.
Pitso Mosimane won the Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns four years ago when they easily beat Zamalek over two legs in the final.
Zamalek have veteran Portuguese coach Jaime Pacheco at the helm. He was hired days before Mosimane joined Al Ahly and is the 20th coaching appointment in the last five years made by Zamalek’s eccentric chairman Mortada Mansour.
Friday’s match is the first time since the inaugural African Champions Cup final in 1965 that the trophy is decided in a single game. The Confederation of African Football introduced the concept of a single final for the competition after last season.
MATCH OFFICIALS TONIGHT
Referee : Mustapha Ghorbal (Algeria)
Assistant Referee 1: Abdelhak Etchiali (Algeria)
Assistant Referee 2 : Mokrane Gourari (Algeria)
Fourth Referee : Janny Sikazwe (Zambia)
By Kwabena Asante Marfo, KobbyKyeiSports