A new dawn for Africa’s kings
© AFP

The sun hasn’t always shone on Al Ahly over the past couple of years. The Cairo giants might be the most successful team in CAF Champions League history, but their recent past has been memorable not for on-field exploits, but the horrific events that unfolded last February in Port Said.

The pain caused by that tragedy has not disappeared, and nor have the difficulties plaguing Ahly fans and their country as a whole. Yesterday, however, these supporters were provided with a timely cause for celebration as their team won Africa’s top club prize for the eighth time and, in doing so, secured their place at next month’s FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco.

The second leg of their CAF Champions League final against Orlando Pirates offered an all too rare opportunity for these Ahly enthusiasts to watch their team at home, with all top-level football having been halted in Cairo during the recent troubles. Indeed, it was only a special concession from Egypt’s military authorities that allowed this fixture to be played in the country’s capital city, with fans scrambling for the chance to cheer on their side at the Arab Contractors Stadium.

Ahly were attempting to finish a job they had started with a 1-1 first leg draw in South Africa, and their success in doing so owed much to the fans’ ultimate idol. Mohamed Aboutrika was playing his final home match, having announced his decision to retire at the end of the year, and it was with the score at 0-0 and Pirates threatening that the 35-year-old settled his team’s nerves with the opening goal.

Ahmed Abdelzaher sealed a 2-0 win 12 minutes from time, allowing Aboutrika to make an emotional farewell, his fifth Champions League winner’s medal guaranteed, and leaving these Ahly fans to celebrate long into the Cairo night.