29 May 2022 | 14:20 | Football
Pitto Mosimane (Getty Images)
Egypt outfit Al Ahly will attend the CAF Champions League final against Moroccan hosts Wydad Casablanca on Monday, thrilled to be about to make history but furious with the choice of venue.
Ahly is among four teams to have won the African Club Championship twice in a row since its debut in 1964, but all have failed in their attempts to win the third straight.
Defeats in 2007 and 2014, the Cairos Reds have a third chance after victories over Egyptian colleagues Zamalek and South African Kaizer Chiefs in the previous two title decisions.
But hopes of further glory were dealt a blow when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) controversially decided to hold the final at Stade Mohammed V, Wydad’s home ground.
The CAF said Morocco and Senegal were the only countries signed up to host the highlight event of the African club calendar, and the West Africans subsequently withdrew without providing an explanation.
Angry Ahly officials asked the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – the highest legal body for sport – to force the CAF to choose a neutral venue instead, but appealed. unsuccessful.
Playing in Casablanca means Wydad will have the backing of around 35,000 supporters in a crowd limited to 45,000 – 2/3 capacity.
Wydad fans are among the most passionate and partisan in Africa with boundless energy that enables them to sing, cheer and dance whenever their hero has the ball, and boo when the opponent has the ball.
However, Ahly’s South African-born Pitso Mosimane coach believes Ahly can succeed and win this record-breaking tournament for the 11th time since first conquering the continent 40 years ago.
“I want to win every contest that Ahly enters. Our millions of supporters expect nothing less,” he told Egyptian media.
History of the eye of Mosimane
“(Portuguese coach) Manuel Jose has had a lot of time as Ahly’s coach and has achieved a lot – but he can’t win every competition.
“I don’t know if I can beat him in terms of titles won by Ahly, but I’ll definitely try.”
Jose was fortunate to coach the greatest Ahly team of them all – a 2005-2008 squad that included three Egyptian legends, goalkeeper Essam el Hadary, defender Wael Gomaa and midfielder Mohamed Aboutrika.
Jose holds the coach record for CAF club titles with eight – four Champions Leagues and four Super Cups – and Mosimane is second with six.
What the Portuguese was unable to achieve was three consecutive Champions League titles, giving Mosimane a chance to make history in Casablanca.
In addition to his two successes with Ahly, the 57-year-old former South African forward led Pretoria’s Mamelodi Sundown to Champions League glory in 2016.
Wydad and Ahly have clashed five times in Casablanca and honor even with two wins and a draw.
The last time they met was the semi-final first leg in 2020, Ahly won 2-0 thanks to goals from Mohamed ‘Afsha’ Magdy and Ali Maaloul.
Tunisian Maaloul, a classy left-back with a penchant for pushing forward, will start on Monday, but attacking midfielder Magdy could be among the replacements.
Although Mohamed Sherif has been Ahly’s all-time leading scorer this Champions League campaign, Mosimane usually starts with a front line consisting of Percy Tau, Taher Mohamed and Ahmed Abdel Kader of South Africa.
France-born Wydad coach Walid Regragui said a tight schedule in the country and CAF has resulted in injuries, but hopes defender Achraf Dari and midfielder Jalal Daoudi will fit in.
Skilled midfielder Yahya Jabrane is the captain of Morocco and a powerful right foot has made him the top scorer for Red Castle in Africa with five goals.