Zamalek, Ahly play in empty stadium
JOHANNESBURG - Agence France-Presse
An Al-Ahly fan wearing a Guy Fawkes mask outside a courthouse in Cairo, May 26, on the last day of the trial of several defendants charged with the killings of 75 fans.Cairo-based African club football giants Al Ahly and Zamalek will this weekend play each other behind closed doors for the first time in a century-old rivalry.
The CAF Champions League matchday 2 Group B fixture between teams that have won the competition 11 times between them is the latest to be staged in an empty Egyptian stadium amid security concerns.
Competitive domestic football was banned after 74 people died on Feb. 1 in post-match rioting following a league fixture between Al Masry and Ahly in Port Said.
This incident coupled with on-going post-Arab spring political tensions in the vast Arab nation led the interior ministry to refuse permission for the 2012-2013 domestic season to kick off this August.
World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers involving the national team and Confederation of African Football club fixtures involving Ahly, Zamalek and ENPPI have been permitted, but without spectators.
Ordinarily, an Ahly-Zamalek derby would fill the 73,000-capacity Cairo Stadium with millions more watching a live broadcast of the game in Egypt, Africa and the Middle East.
But when the Red Devils of Ahly and the White Knights of Zamalek walk on to the Military Academy Stadium pitch in Cairo late Sunday for the CAF showdown, the crowd will consist only of officials and the media. “I really wish our supporters could attend this game,” Ahly coach Hossam Al Badry told reporters, “especially seen that things are getting settled in Egypt with a new president elected.
“My wish is that our fans will be there behind us in forthcoming matches because they motivate us. I hope this turns out to be our last game behind closed doors.”
Zamalek coach Hassan Shehata acknowledged the threat of crowd trouble: “The security conditions in Egypt and Tunisia are difficult after the revolutions and games such as those between us and Ahly could result in problems between fans.”
Ahly takez a 12-match unbeaten run against Zamalek into a clash between the two most successful clubs in the premier CAF club competition with the Devils lifting the trophy six times and the Knights five times.