Al Ahly
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The past

Founded by Englishman Mitchell Ince in 1907, Al Ahly is widely regarded as Africa's most successful club. It might be also be argued that it is also one of the most popular clubs in the world, as it claims to have 50 million supporters.

The Cairo-based outfit began to dominate the Egyptian game in the 1940s, due to its popularity among the people and rulers of Egypt during that period. It's name, Al Ahly, means ‘National' and it was because of this that it is also known as ‘the people's club' along with its more popular moniker of ‘the Red Devils.'

The club enjoyed another golden era in the 1960s with Hungarian legend Nandor Hidegkuti at the helm, but it wasn't until the 80s that they made their mark on African football, winning the continent's showpiece club event in 1982 and 1987. After being heralded by CAF as Africa's club of the 20th Century in 2000, they also picked up CAF Champions League titles in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2008.

The present

Under the guidance of Portuguese coach Manuel Jose, the class of 2008 is believed to be one of Ahly's greatest-ever sides, with the experience of Wael Gomaa, Mohamed Barakat, Mohamed Aboutrika and Ahmed Hassan continually driving the team forward.

The 2007/08 season saw the club successfully complete the league and Champions League double. Now Al Ahly have won the league 33 times and the Champions League six times, with four of those successes coming under the tutelage of Jose.

"We proved that we are by far the best team in African football, and that we did not deserve to lose our title last year to Etoile Sahel," said team's captain, Shady Mohamed.

Although there were doubts over the team's ability to continue their success following the sudden departure of goalkeeper Essam El Hadary to FC Sion, exceptional performances from his former reserve, Amir Abdelhamid, throughout the campaign have restored confidence.

The future

"We are happy to return to Japan," "We finished third the last time we reached the FIFA Club World Cup in 2006 which will put us under pressure because our fans won't expect any less this time," said Mohamed Barakat.  The team is planning to arrive in Tokyo one week before the kick-off of their first match in order to adapt to the environment and overcome jetlag. 

Facts and figures

Former stars
Moktar El Tetsh (1923-1940), Refaat Fanagili (1953-1967), Mahmud El Khatieb (1970-1987)

Key players
Wael Gomaa (defender), Ahmed Hassan (midfielder), Mohamed Barakat (midfielder), Mohamed Aboutrika (forward).

Qualifying statistics
Platinum Stars of South Africa were the only side who beat Al Ahly throughout their successful CAF Champions League campaign.

The numbers game
3 - The number of appearances Ahly have made at the FIFA Club World Cup. They are the only team who have that reached the finals of the competition on three occasions.