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.
With the identity of all four semi-finalists known the final matchday in the CAF Champions League group stages was a little anti-climatic but there were still points to play for as teams jostled either for the leadership of the group or to avoid the wooden spoon. The situation was different in the CAF Confederation Cup, however, as all teams were involved in their fourth matches of the group stage this weekend with some very interesting results. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews this weekend’s action.
Group A was topped by Tunisians Espérance by two points from defending African champions TP Mazembe who also qualify from the group. Espérance had Oussama Darragi to thank for claiming all three points in their away match at Dynamos FC of Zimbabwe, his 23rd minute goal giving Espérance all three points and the group leadership. TP Mazembe could only muster a goalless draw in their final match away to Algerians ES Sétif whose consolation was that they finished third and, thus, avoided the group’s wooden spoon. Espérance claimed 13 points from six games with TP Mazembe two points further behind.
Group B winners JS Kabylie of Algeria had already been assured of the group leadership after Matchday 5 as they enjoyed a five point gap between themselves and second place Al Ahly. The Algerian champions were away to Nigerians Heartland FC in their final game and they went away with a 1-1 draw which preserved their unbeaten record at this stage of the competition. Al Ahly, on the other hand, were on the receiving end of a 4-2 defeat from compatriots Ismaily FC but still finished two points further ahead in the standings. The semi-final draw sees title holders TP Mazembe play JS Kabylie and record champions Al Ahly face off against Espérance and both legs will be played on the weekends of October 1-3 and October 15-17, offical times still be finalized.
In the CAF Confederation Cup the only suspense in Group A is which one from Ittihad and Al Hilal will finish top of the group. Djoliba FC, who are in third place are five points behind both teams with two games to play and have little chance of catching either or both teams up in the standings. Djoliba FC did, at least, put the celebrations of their Matchday 4 opponents Al Hilal on hold with a 2-0 win on Sunday. Ittihad’s 3-1 win over Niger’s ASFAN on Saturday means that they along with Ittihad are on equal points with each team holding a record of 3-0-1 in the group phase so far. In Group B FUS Rabat and CS Sfaxien lead the way following their Matchday 4 wins over Haras El Hadood and Zanaco FC respectively. FUS Rabat top the standings with nine points from four games after they came from behind in their away clash to Egyptians Haras by two goals to one. CS Sfaxien, two time winners of this competition, remain on course to reach the last four following their 2-1 win at home to third place Zanaco, the Zambian team who lie in third place just three points further back.
The second round of the CAF Champions League has been completed this weekend and the eight teams who have qualified from this section look forward to the oncoming group stage. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reports on the winners and losers from the second round of Africa’s elite club competition and highlights the latest developments in the Confederation Cup, Africa’s equivalent of the UEFA Europa League or Copa Sudamericana.
On Friday night three teams were victorious in their Round of 16 matches. Zimbabweans Dynamos F.C. had a comfortable passage following their first leg 4-1 victory against Botswana’s Gaborone United by securing a goalless draw in the return fixture to become the first team through to the last eight. Algerian champions ES Sétif were made to work for their place having scraped through with a 3-2 aggregate win over Zambians Zanaco F.C. Another North African team, Espérance of Tunisia, made it through after they easily negotiated their way past Sudanese Al-Merreikh with a 4-0 aggregate win. On Sunday defending champions TP Mazembe secured their passage to the group stage with a 3-0 second leg win over Malians Djoliba, going through 4-0 overall. Algerians JS Kabylie were grateful to go through 3-2 on aggregate against Angolans Atlético Petróleos while Heartlands FC from Nigeria beat South African champions SuperSport United 4-2 on aggregate. The two Egyptian teams in the tournament, Al Ahly and Ismaily, clinched the remaining two berths in the last eight with aggregate victories over Ittihad and Al-Hilal Omdurman respectively. The eight winners will be drawn into two groups of four teams in the lucrative group stage whilst the eight losing teams from this round will be rewarded with the consolation prize of a place in the CAF Confederation Cup.
The sixteen teams remaining in the CAF Confederation Cup will play a further knockout round before they indulge in a group stage format similar to that in the main competition. Defending champions Stade Malien were knocked out of this year’s tournament having succumbed to a 2-0 aggregate defeat by Moroccans FUS Rabat. The team from the Moroccan capital took a two goal first leg lead into the return fixture and were able to hold on comfortably in order to progress to the next stage. Egyptians Haras El Hodood were the big winners in the second round having defeated Tanzanians Simba F.C. by six goals to three. Two-time former champions CS Sfaxien squeezed through past Egyptians Petrojet F.C. by a 2-1 scoreline whilst Algerian outfit CR Belouizdad’s hopes of claiming a first continental trophy were increased after they overturned a 1-0 first leg defeat with a 2-0 win in the second leg against Sudanese Amal Atbara. In the remaining games ASFAN F.C. (Niger), Primeiro de Agosto (Angola) and CAPS United (Zimbabwe) ensured aggregate wins against DC Motema Pembe (DR Congo), Cotonsport (Cameroun) and Warri Wolves (Nigeria) respectively while Nigerians Enyimba clawed back a 3-0 first leg deficit against AS Vita Club (DR Congo) to force extra-time and a penalty shoot-out in which they prevailed 9-8 from spot kicks.