Twenty one people have been sentenced to death in Egypt as punishment for their involvement in the football riots of Port Said last year in which 74 people were killed.
Riots occurred on February 1st 2012 following an Egyptian League match between Al Masry of Port Said and Al Ahly of Cairo in which fans of the home team, following their 3-1 win over the record champions, charged at Al Ahly supporters and accusations have also been made against the police who have been accused of not doing enough to prevent the trouble on the day. In a situation where political tensions are already potentially at breaking point at any time, the ruling of this case inevitably brought about rioting in Port Said whereas in Cairo the verdict was greeted with celebration.
Egypt’s football league has been suspended since the Port Said disaster and is due to be resumed in February this year. However, two years after the revolution which helped to topple former president Hosni Mubarak, events in relation to this case will inevitably provide doubts as to whether the country is ready to resume hosting top flight football matches at a time when the country is still politically sensitive.
Al-Ahly did what they were expected to do in the Round of 32 of the Egyptian Cup on Tuesday night as they swept aside the challenge of Kima Aswan, winning the game by four goals to nil. The game will forever be famous, however, for this dreadful penalty by Al Ahly’s Amir Sayoud. Following his embarrassing effort the player was shown a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct but I guess it’s best to try these things when you’re already 4-0 ahead with just minutes of the contest remaining. Definitely one to be watched again and again……
Two of Africa’s top football championships have been decided in the past few days with Cotonsport maintaining their stranglehold of the Cameroonian domestic game whilst Al Ahly did likewise in Egypt.
Cotonsport, from the north Cameroonian city of Garoua, sealed their tenth league title in fifteen seasons with a 2-1 win against fourth place Unisport Bafang. The victory meant that Cotonsport increased their advantage at the top of the MTN Elite One league by eight points over nearest challengers Astres Douala with just one match to play after the latter lost their penultimate game of the campaign 1-0 to eighth place Tiko United. This title triumph is all the sweeter for Cotonsport who are now joint record champions of Cameroon along with Canon Yaoundé who claimed the last of their ten championship wins in 1992. Cotonsport have also been rewarded with a place in the 2012 CAF Champions League qualifiers but, in the meantime, they can now prepare for the group stages of the 2011 edition in which they will meet Enyimba (Nigeria), Raja Casablanca (Morocco) and Al-Hilal (Sudan) starting next weekend.
Egypt’s most successful club Al Ahly clinched their seventh consecutive Egyptian Premier League title having thrashed bottom club Arab Constructors 5-1 on Wednesday. This result, coupled with closest challengers Zamalek’s 1-1 draw at home to 12th place Wadi Degla, meant that the margin at the top between the top two teams was seven points with just one solitary game left to play. The only way the title chase would’ve gone to the last day would’ve been if Al Ahly had lost and Zamalek had won but this is now academic. Al Ahly have denied Zamalek a championship win in their centenary year and did so despite starting the season in indifferent fashion. The political and civil unrest which affected the country in January certainly came at the right time for Al Ahly in that it stopped Zamalek whilst they were in good form and were looking favourites for the title. Since the resumption of the league in April, Al Ahly have remained unbeaten in fourteen matches (10 wins, 4 draws) whilst Zamalek slumped in that time taking just 21 points from the last 42 available (5 wins, 6 draws, 3 defeats). This vindicated Al Ahly’s decision to bring back former coach Manuel José for a third time following Hossam Al-Badry’s dismissal.
Every football league around the world has its own Clásico; in Spain there’s little denying that Real Madrid against FC Barcelona is as big as it gets whilst Boca Juniors against River Plate gets the pulses racing more than any other fixture in Argentina. On Thursday the Egyptian capital city of Cairo will witness yet another clash between eternal rivals Ah Ahly and Zamalek and it should prove to be the most important encounter between these two clubs for quite a few years.
Although there is a huge gap between the number of titles won at home between these two sides, the Cairo derby still stands out because of the huge success that both these clubs have shared on the continental stage. Domestically Al Ahly (which means “The National”) have won 35 league championships and the exact same number of Egyptian Cups compared to Zamalek (named after the Cairo suburb) who have 11 and 21 respectively. In African club competition, however, both clubs have fought it out more evenly with both clubs having accumulated a massive eleven CAF Champions League titles (Al Ahly 6, Zamalek 5), four CAF Cup Winners’ Cup (Al Ahly 4, Zamalek 1) and nine CAF Super Cups (Ah Ahly 4, Zamalek 5) making them the two most successful sides in African club football.
Despite these numbers the derby has been slightly dimmed in recent years by Zamalek’s inability to fight it out for the top prizes at home and abroad which, in turn, has allowed Al Ahly to dominate the Egyptian league for the last six seasons. In the ten most recent league matches between these sides Al Ahly’s dominance is reflected by the fact that they have won five and have lost only one, Zamalek’s last victory in this fixture came in the 2006-07 season. But Zamalek fans can have hope that they can put their seven year title drought to an end as they currently top the table with thirty points from 13 games, a four point lead over second place Ismaily who have played a game more. Al Ahly, meanwhile, lie in fourth place six points behind Zamalek and a win in front of their home supporters would take them into second place so expect a tough fought encounter with more than just three points at stake.
The African Cup of Nations has come a long way since its inception in 1957 and is now one of the most respected football tournaments in the world. Only three nations participated in the inaugural competition but has steadily risen over the years to become a fully-fledged tournament of 16 teams. In honour of the 27th African Cup of Nations final, which takes place tomorrow between Egypt and Ghana, Stoppage Time takes a look back at previous tournament finals.
It is, perhaps, fitting that the most successful team in the cup’s history were also the first ever champions of the continent. Egypt won the first tournament in 1957 after winning their semi-final against Sudan before going on to easily dispatch of Ethiopia 4-0 in the final with Mohamed Diab el-Attar scoring all four goals. Egypt regained the title as host nation in 1959 beating the same teams as the previous tournament in a mini-league format. Egypt, however, failed to make it three-in-a-row after they lost to hosts Ethiopia in the 1962 final and would not celebrate success in the competition for another two decades.
In 1963 Ghana won their first tournament at home defeating Sudan 3-0 in the final after both teams had topped their groups, each containing three teams. Ghana defended the title two years later after beating host nation Tunisia 3-2 after extra-time but would be the defeated finalists in the next two tournaments against Congo DR in 1968 (1-0) and Sudan in 1970 (3-2). In 1972 Congo, not to be confused with 1968 champions Congo DR, won their only tournament beating Mali 3-2. Zaire, who had won the cup in their previous guise as Congo DR in 1968, reclaimed the title under their new name in 1974 after defeating Zambia 2-0 in the first replayed final in the tournament’s history. In 1976 the format changed whereby the knockout stage was replaced by a final group of four teams after the conclusion of the first round. Morocco won the cup in this year topping the final table from Guinea, Nigeria and Egypt. In the following tournament in 1978 the format reverted back to having a knockout system following the group stage. Ghana celebrated their third triumph after Opoku Afriyie scored both goals in a 2-0 defeat of Uganda.
The 1980 tournament saw Nigeria win their first ever African Cup of Nations after the host nation beat Algeria 3-0. Two years later host country Libya reached the final for the first time but were unfortunate to lose in the first penalty shoot-out to decide an ACN final losing to Ghana 7-6 on spot kicks, a victory which saw the Ghanaians claim their fourth and, hitherto, last title. The 1984 competition saw Cameroon emerge as an African football heavyweight beating Nigeria 3-1. Two years later the Egyptians reached the final for the first time since the group phase finals round of 1976 and emerged triumphant for the third time in their history beating Cameroon on penalty kicks. The next two tournaments saw Nigeria reach the final only to suffer the anguish of defeat on both occasions against Cameroon in 1988 (1-0) and host nation Algeria in 1990 (1-0).
The 1992 tournament saw an expansion of the format from eight teams up to twelve split into four groups of three with an extra knockout round. The Ivory Coast won their first African Cup of Nations title in this tournament beating Ghana 11-10 on penalties after a disappointing final finished 0-0. The 1994 ACN saw Nigeria win the trophy for the second time thanks to a brace from Emmanual Amunike in a 2-1 win over Zambia. The 1996 tournament not only saw a further expansion from twelve to sixteen teams but was also the first tournament in which South Africa were allowed to participate following the country’s re-introduction to the international sporting stage following the end of the Apartheid regime. The Bafana Bafana, as the South African national team are known, exceeded all expectations to win the cup thanks to a 2-0 win over Tunisia, Mark Williams making himself a national hero by scoring both goals. The 1998 tournament was held in Burkina Faso for the first time in the event’s history but saw old favourites Egypt claim their fourth title beating the defending champions South Africa 2-0 in the final.
For the first time in the event’s history the 2000 tournament was held in two countries, Ghana and Nigeria. The latter got to the final, which was held in their home stadium in Lagos, but lost an African Cup of Nations final for the fourth time after losing to Cameroon 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw. Cameroon defended the trophy in 2002 after winning on penalty kicks again, this time against Senegal (3-2 after the match had finished 0-0). The following two competitions were won by host nations as Tunisia beat Morocco 2-1 in 2004 and Egypt beat the Ivory Coast on penalties in 2006. Egypt successfully defended their title in the 2008 competition by narrowly defeating Cameroon 1-0 thanks to a late Mohamed Aboutreika goal.
This year’s final takes place tomorrow in the Angolan capital of Luanda with record champions Egypt looking for a history making third consecutive title and a record increasing seventh title overall but in their way will be a Ghana side who despite not scoring many goals haven’t conceded many goals either and will be a tough nut to crack. The Egyptians are on a high after a 4-0 semi-final victory over eternal rivals Algeria in the usual bad-tempered clash on Thursday whilst Ghana also celebrated success against a rival beating neighbours Nigeria 1-0 thanks to a goal from Asamoah Gyan. Due to their recent record in the tournament Egypt go into the match as favourites but Ghana cannot be underestimated especially as they are a four-times African champion themselves. A truly intriging African Cup of Nations final awaits….
Going into this year’s African Cup of Nations many pundits have predicted that Ivory Coast, including the likes of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Yaya Touré, will win the tournament. At the same time Egypt, who are back-to-back defending champions having won the most recent two tournaments in 2006 and 2008, have been written off especially as their big guns of Mohamed Aboutrika, Amr Zaki and Mido are missing either through injury or non-inclusion in their national team. However their opening matches in Angola in the last couple of days have given these pundits food for thought.
When Ivory Coast played against Burkina Faso on Sunday many thought that three points for the former would pretty much secure their passage into the quarter finals, especially as they are in the group which Togo have now been disqualified from due to their reluctance to participate after the gun attack in Cabinda last Friday. However the Burkina Faso side were determined to prove that they are not in Angola just to make up the numbers and held their more illustrious opponents to a credible 0-0 draw in Group B’s opening match. This means that the second game of the group between the Ivory Coast and Ghana is something akin to an early cup final. If the Ivorians lose then a draw in the final game involving Burkina Faso and Ghana would be enough to send ‘Les Éléphants’ crashing out of the tournament at the group stage, something which was unthinkable before the competition began.
In contrast Egypt have started the tournament strongly. They went behind to a super strike from Chinedu Obasi after only twelve mintes in their 3-1 win over Nigeria. The defending champions equalized when Nigeria’s keeper came out of his penalty area which allowed Emad Moteab to go around him and put the ball into an empty net on 34 minutes. Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan, playing in the African Cup of Nations for a remarkable eighth time, scored the second goal ten minutes into the second half albeit thanks to a wicked deflection of Taye Taiwo. Mohamed Gedo completed the victory for the Pharaohs three minutes from time to give the Egyptians the perfect start in Group C, especially as their other group opponents Mozambique and Benin could only draw 2-2 in their encounter.
Perhaps the fact that Egypt haven’t qualified for the FIFA World Cup this season means that they will try their level best to secure a history making third consecutive African Cup of Nations trophy. It is possible that the Ivory Coast will get through their group and go all the way but after the opening match results they must be fearful that yet another opportunity to become continental champions is going to be squandered. But in what appears to be an open tournament so far I don’t think too many pundits should be making predictions just yet….