In retrospect, a CAF Champions League Final between Al Ahly and Zamalek was the one we deserved this season. We had eight former winners at the quarterfinal stage and it is right that the most successful of the bunch are the ones that reached the final. It is good that the CAFCL Final will be at Cairo Stadium although we do not support how CAF handled the issue of hosting rights.
Al Ahly and Zamalek also had similar CAFCL campaigns this season. The Cairo duo started the group stage slowly, finished second, defeated tournament favourites in the quarterfinals and maintained their form for the semifinal despite the disruption brought about by Covid-19 and the fact that they changed their coaches at a critical stage.
It is not overselling it to state that this will be the most important Cairo Derby ever. Zamalek now has a chance to get one back over the perceived injustice of not being named the African Club of the 20th Century. You can read about that story here. On the other hand, Al Ahly needs to show that they can conquer Africa without their golden generation. It has been 7 years since the Red Devils last won the CAF Champions League.
These are not the only issues that will be keeping us awake ahead of the 27th November 2020 CAFCL Final in Cairo (we hope CAF doesn’t change the date, smh). There are four other hot talking points that will shape the Cairo Derby final. I suggest you read about them below in part of our build-up to the CAFCL Final this season.
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1. Who has the Strongest XI?
Al Ahly and Zamalek have already met three times this season. The two teams have turned out to be more or less equals in their meetings this season; both have one win and the third match ended in a draw. These series of results are far removed from the days (make it years) when Al Ahly used to easily win both the Egyptian Premier League title and the Cairo Derby.
What changed? Zamalek started to believe. And they legitimately are candidates for the title of the ‘Best XI in Africa Today’ (I just made that award up Zamalek, don’t start a fight over it hehe…). The other team that can claim this honour is Al Ahly. I really do not know what to choose; Hamed or Dieng? or Sassi or Maaloul? Zizo or El Shahat? Bencharki or Afsha?
2. First CAFCL Final Between Teams from the Same Country
We have waited for this for the longest time. It is just that no league had a two clubs strong enough to reach the CAFCL Final in the same season. Well, Egypt perhaps had this quality in 2005 but Al Ahly and Zamalek ended up playing each other in the semifinal. Apart from this occassion we had only one of Etoile Sahel and Esperance Tunis reach the final in 2004 and only one of TP Mazembe and Vita Club do so in 2014.
This achievement by the Cairo may end up becoming an ordinary feat if things in Africa end up like they have in Europe. There had only been three finals between teams from the same countries in the UEFA Champions League from 1955 to 2010. They ended up having four (4) finals between teams from the same country in the 10 years after that.
3. Pitso Mosimane’s Ambition
We have discussed in length about the possibilities of Pitso Mosimane’s stay at Al Ahly. I am surprised that he managed to reach the CAF Champions League final. This achievement puts him in an elite class and he may yet distinguish himself by becoming the first man to win the CAF Champions League with clubs from different countries.
4. History of Cairo Derbies in the CAFCL
I am going to say that the record of Cairo Derbies in the CAF Champions League does not present a good reading for Zamalek. The White Knights have never beaten Al Ahly in the CAFCL. In fact, every time Al Ahly and Zamalek have met in the Champions League, the Red Devils have gone on to win the Champions League. This happened in 2005, 2008, 2012, 2013. Is it going to happen in 2020?