Following the CAF’s decision to postpone the CAF Champions League semi-final second leg between Zamalek SC and Raja CA, AFHQ’s Mazin Rizq looks into the possible consequences for the White Giants.
The story picked up media attention when Raja CA’s team had reported nine active cases within their players, meaning they would not be able to make the trip to Cairo.
As the news broke, fans of both clubs started assuming their club’s fate. Some Zamalek faithfuls assumed Raja would be forced to forfeit, giving the White Castle a direct path into the final. On the other hand, the Botola Pro Champions were hoping the fixture would get postponed.
This was all speculation until Zamalek’s President, Mortada Mansour, spoke out on the Club’s TV channel.
“Raja CA were great hosts to our players when we travelled to Morocco. We respect all the clubs, especially our Arab brothers. In a previous situation, we were against Al Ahly going ahead and forcing Al Masry to play while the later had a high number of cases,” Mansour started out his speech.
“Regardless of what decision CAF make, I’d like to announce that Zamalek are in favour of postponing the game. The safety of our brothers in Morocco is more important than any tournament we can win.” Mansour said.
But little did Mansour know that his statement was going to create a big mess for his club in the following days.
Zamalek, who are in second place in the Egyptian Premier League, have their final game to play against Ismaily on the 30th of October.
Their competitor for second place in the league table, Pyramids, who recently qualified to the CAF Confederations Cup final, are scheduled to play Fourth placed, Al Mokawloon at the same time.
Even though Zamalek are four points ahead of Pyramids, with one match to play, they are facing a 3-point deduction after withdrawing from the first leg of the Egyptian Derby, which brings their difference to one point.
Sources within the Egyptian FA have mentioned that Zamalek’s game against Ismaily might be played on the 25th of October, five days before the second leg of the semi-final.
The option of postponing the end of the Egyptian League to after the CAF CL final would also not be an option as the new season for the Egyptian Premier League is expected to kick-off then.
This will also give the winner of the semi-final fewer days to prepare for the Final as the other fixture between Al Ahly and Wydad AC takes place in it’s scheduled day.
The final, scheduled to be played on the 7th of November will need to be played in time, as FIFA’s International Agenda kicks off on the 9th of the month, and the players will have to report to international duties.
Was the decision taken to postpone the game carefully studied? Did both clubs know their situation before hand? Or has Mortada Mansour’s statement on the club channel given CAF the green light to do what they see fit for their own competition?
It is worth noting that Guinean champions Horoya have had to play their game against Pyramids in the Semi-Final of the CAF Confederations Club with just 15 players in their match squad. It included two goalkeepers. The rest of the squad had tested positive for Covid-19.
This was due to the rules, that state that a team only needs 13 players, including one goalkeeper for the match to go on. As Horoya had 15 players available, the match was played in its scheduled time.
CAF recently announced that the second leg would be postponed to November 1st, while Ahly and Wydad will play their match as originally scheduled.
Mortada Mansour has now made a complaint regarding the scheduling of the final, should they advance. In a letter to CAF, Mansour indicated that Zamalek would only have five days before it plays the final while its opponent (presumably Al Ahly) would have obtained a rest of 14 days. The winner from the Wydad-Ahly leg would be given an unfair advantage as they would have more time to rest and heal any injuries.
The upcoming days will show us how each team’s fate will play out as the Egyptian FA will likely be forced to delay some of their league matches to accomadate Zamalek’s continental schedule.