The final of the Caf Champions League is a massive fixture in any year, but this season, the contest takes on even greater resonance due both to the participants and the context.
Somewhat remarkably, for the first time ever, Africa’s biggest clubs—Al-Ahly and SC Zamalek—will collide to decide who is the continent’s champion.
The two are the most successful teams in the history of the continent’s premier club competition, but they’ve never before met at this stage.
Now, it’s all on the line, in a fixture that neither of these two Cairene rivals—bitter foe who are divided on political and cultural lines—can afford to miss.
African Football HQ host Malek Shafei has put together an all-star panel of Egyptian football pundits to assess this blockbuster showdown in this week’s episode of the podcast.
We discuss the history and the rivalry between the Red Devils and the White Knights; they did meet in the Caf Super Cup final of 1994---not quite the same thing as Friday’s meeting—and have crossed paths on several occasions in the Champions League over the last 20 years.
On each of those recent meetings, it was Ahly who came out on top, although the pair are more evenly matched heading into this weekend’s bout, with Zamalek having achieved continental success with last season’s Caf Confederation Cup victory.
In Achraf Bencharki and Mostafa Mohamed, they also boast two of the most fearsome attacking threats in this year’s edition of the competition, and either man has the potential to be the match-winner.
Unfortunately, due to the restrictions necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, this ‘match of the century’ must be played behind closed doors at the Cairo International Stadium, although while a bitter shame, it certainly reduces the risk for negative health consequences or further controversies.
Positive Covid-19 tests will also deny several key players the opportunity to feature in Friday’s final, with the likes of Abdallah Gom'aa, Youssef Obama, and Mahmoud Hamdy El-Wensh all set to miss out.
There’s also intrigue in the dugout, where two relatively new faces will be squaring up to contest arguably the biggest matches of their careers.
Jaime Pacheco deserves credit for the way he has guided Zamalek to the final—and got the best out of this group of players, while Pitso Mosimane will make history if he can clinch another continental crown for Ahly, having previously won the title with South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns.