By Paul Nicholson
July 16 – Egyptian giants Zamalek are taking their protests over CAF’s 2020 award of the ‘African club of the Century’ to Al-Ahly to the confederation’s ethics function, claiming the club rankings that decided the title were rigged.
Zamalek and their president Mortada Mansour say they now have evidence that the original rankings CAF produced had Zamalek as the top club, but that the rankings were then manipulated until Al-Ahly topped the table and Zamalek were second.
Zamalek say that the changes were made by the ‘Al-Ahly family’ working within CAF’s Cairo headquarters and on the instruction of former general secretary Mustapha Fahmy, who was an Al-Ahly board member.
“It is clear when you look at the criteria for the award of the points that there is something ‘funny’ going on,” said sports journalist Motaz el Shamy. “Everyone knows this was wrong but how the ranking points were decided was covered up.”
Zamalek protests over the award first began in 2012 when former CAF technical director and former Al-Ahly player Abdel Moneim Hussein (better known as Shatta) revealed that the ranking points initially had Zamalek as the team of the century and Al-Ahly placed third, but were repeatedly reworked until Al Ahly came top.
Original rankings and criteria:
Until 2012 no-one had questioned the process but with Shatta’s revelations and the evidence of an earlier ranking that placed Zamalek top, came a barrage of outrage from fans and Zamalek officials
Al-Ahly lead Zamalek by two points despite Zamalek having two more continental championship wins. Zamalek have nine against Al-Ahly’s seven. To get Al-Ahly more points, the ranking system was adjusted to go deeper into the competition structures to award points for group appearances, while the CAF Super Cup (where Zamalek have been a multiple winner) was downgraded to give only a single point to the winner.
Mansour has written to the Egyptian FA who have agreed to take the issue up with CAF. Zamalek maintain that the African Club of the Century has had a real commercial impact on their business, with Al-Ahly using the title to secure more and better deals with sponsors and partners.
At the end of May, Mansour unilaterally proclaimed his club as ‘the Real African club of the century’ via a billboard on the club’s premises on the outskirts of Giza.
The billboard sparked social media comment as Al Ahly fans derided the Zamalek billboard that went up the same day that CAF commemorated the anniversary of the award on their official Twitter account saying: “Today marks 20 years since Al Ahly was crowned club of the century. Happy anniversary.”
The sense of injustice is so great amongst Zamalek fans and officials that Mortada has tasked a sub-committee of his own Zamalek board to gather more information and lobby on the issue.
Final ranking criteria:
The animosity between the rival Cairo clubs extends beyond the fans with Mansour, a member of the Egyptian parliament, currently embroiled in a defamation case following a Facebook video that is allegedly of him making derogatory comments about Al_ahly president Mahmoud El Khatib.
That video is widely believed to be a fake but it hasn’t stop Al-Ahly petitioning parliament to remove Mansour’s immunity from prosecution so that he can formally be charged in this case.
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