In markedly differing situations, Egypt’s two giant teams prepare for major matches in African football club tournaments.
Ahli and Zamalek, Egypt’s two biggest, most famous and most successful football clubs enter the weekend facing big-time matches in the continent’s premier club championships.
Ahli need only draw with Zambian outfit Nkana to reach the semi-finals of the African Confederation Cup. The game is scheduled for Saturday 9 August in Kitwe.
After four games played in the group stage, and with two remaining, Ahli are atop Group B with eight points. Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia are in second with five points, one ahead of Nakana. Sewe Sport of the Ivory Coast lie in last place with three.
In the first leg in Cairo in May, Ahli defeated Nkana 2-0.
Ahli started the CAF Confederation Cup group stage with a 2-0 victory over Nkana of Zambia in an empty stadium in May (photo: beinsports)
Though Ahli have won the more prestigious African Champions League a record eight times, no Egyptian team has been able to capture the Confederation Cup.
In the Champions League, Zamalek are not as comfortable as Ahli. On Sunday 10 August Zamalek will host the Congolese side Vita Club in what is a must-win situation for the Egyptian outfit.
With just two games remaining in the group stage, Zamalek are at the bottom of Group A with four points. In Zamalek’s favour is that despite their paucity of points, they lie just three points behind leaders Vita and DR Congo’s TP Mazembe. Hilal of Sudan are level with Zamalek with four points.
Zamalek will be playing under their new/old coach Hossam Hassan who recently replaced Mido at the helm.
The 47-year-old Hassan, who terminated his contract as head coach of Jordan’s national team last month, signed a one-year contract with Zamalek,
Hassan’s first stint as Zamalek coach – from 2009 until 2011 – was largely viewed as successful despite not having won any silverware.
As Egypt’s all-time leading scorer with 69 goals, Hassan steered Ahli and then Zamalek to a host of domestic and continental titles in a glittering career that spanned three decades and which ended in 2007.
Hassan will be assisted by his twin brother, football director Ibrahim Hassan. The twins are a known volatile pair with quick, fiery tempers that have often landed them and their respective clubs in hot water.
They took charge of Jordan a year ago, taking them to the 2015 Asian Cup finals.
Mido’s sacking came only a few days after Zamalek’s hopes of reaching the African Champions League semis were dealt a huge blow with a 0-0 draw at home to TP Mazembe.
Mido, who had a star-studded career in Europe in several high-profile clubs, was fired despite leading the team to the Egypt Cup title in his first season in charge. They finished third in the Egyptian Premier League.
At 31, Mido was the youngest ever manager to take the helm of an Egyptian Premier League club.
The former Tottenham striker was the 28th coach to leave Zamalek during the past decade, proof of a highly turbulent and often chaotic environment the club often works in and suffers from.
Zamalek are bidding for their first continental title since 2002.