African Super Cup in Qatar is not ‘neutral’ ground for Egypt’s Zamalek

February 14 – Eight months after one of the most bitter episodes in the history of African football, the Continent’s Super Cup takes place later today between Tunisia’s Esperance and Egypt’s Zamalek on neutral ground in Doha.

Esperance controversially won the CAF Champions League last May after opponents Wydad Casablanca abandoned the final in protest at the organisers’ decision not to use VAR.

Play was stopped for more than an hour with the Moroccan side insisting they had not been told the video ref would not be deployed.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport named Esperance the winners after a protracted legal battle that heaped further embarrassment and claims on mismanagement on the already scandal-tainted African football heirarchy.

The annual Super Cup was staged in Africa from its inception in 1993 until last year when it moved to Doha.  The  showpiece fixture is further fraught with tension after Zamalek initially said they would boycott it since Egypt is one of four countries enforcing an economic boycott of Qatar.

With the prospect of being heavily sanctioned,  Zamalek’s board caved in and voted to play the match but the club’s chairman Mortada Mansour warned his players in an online video that they were “travelling to a hostile country”.

Some 20,000 fans are expected, the latest test of Qatar’s capabilities ahead of the 2022 World Cup though the fixture is being staged at Al Gharafa, not one of the 2022 stadiums.