After a hiatus of more than a month, during which time the world played witness to massive changes in Egyptian society, the country's passion for football was reaffirmed at the weekend as Zamalek played their first major match since the start of the Egypt revolution, whose popular protests led to the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak in mid-February.
Football had been one of the many casualties of the civil strife and even with protest at an end, there has been no resumption of league games at what is traditionally a crucial juncture of the Egyptian season. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) determined that Zamalek’s postponed CAF Champions League first round, second leg against Ulinzi of Kenya must go ahead, and Egypt’s new ruling military council were persuaded to allow spectators in for the match in Cairo on Sunday.
The result was never in any doubt as Zamalek already had a 4-0 lead from the first leg away, but there was hope that a disciplined spectacle would prove the catalyst for permission to resume the league as quickly as possible. A capacity crowd of 22,000 were on hand to see Zamalek win 1-0 and proved largely timid, perhaps because there were rarely any reasons for excitement in a disappointing game where the effects of Zamalek’s month-long lay-off were all too evident. Mahmoud Shikabala got the only goal of the return leg as the five-time continental champions advanced to a second round meeting with either Club Africain of Tunisia or the Rwanda army club APR.
The coach of Ulinzi Stars, Benjamin Nyangweso, was proud of his side’s improvement after the match. "We faced one of the best outfits in Africa," he said. "They boast many players from Egypt, which are the strongest national team in the past years. Zamalek beat us 4-0 before, so losing 1-0 to them is deemed an achievement after all."
Not enough for Ghana’s other Stars
Sunday’s match was one of five games held over from two weeks ago. In the case of the Zamalek-Ulinzi encounter, it was because of the political upheaval, but for the others the delay was because of players participating at the African Nations Championship in Sudan.
Aduana Stars of Ghana had their players back from the event, but they were unable to pull back a three-goal deficit against Wydad Casablanca of Morocco. Bernard Dong Bortey netted a first half penalty, but there were no further tallies for the home side in Dormaa, and Wydad won through 3-1 on aggregate and next face Kano Pillars of Nigeria.
Alfred Mfongang scored twice in the second half as AS V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo went through as expected against Ocean View of Zanzibar. The first goal in a 3-0 win at Kinshasa’s Stade des Martyrs came from Yves Magiola in the 41st minute.
AS V Club from DR Congo, who beat Zanzibar's Ocean View 3-0 to go through 4-1 on aggregate, have to wait to see who there opponents are because the tie between Coton Sport of Cameroon and Vital’O of Burundi takes place on 5 March. Other ties that will be finished up late are between Club Africain and APR FC, Astres Douala of Cameroon and Gabon’s US Bitam, and Mali’s Djoliba and East End Lions of Sierra Leone
Ivorian teams Jeunesse and ASEC Abidjan also progressed. JCA won at home to eliminate ASFAN of Niger, while ASEC scored twice away through Jean-Jacques Bougouhi and Antoine Ngossan in Mauritania.
Delayed first round, second leg results
ASC SNIM (Mauritania) 0-2 ASEC Abidjan (Ivory Coast)
First leg: 0-7. ASEC Abidjan won 9-0 on aggregate.
AS V Club (DR Congo) 3-0 Ocean View (Zanzibar)
First leg: 1-1. AS V Club won 4-1 on aggregate.
Jeunesse (Ivory Coast) 3-0 ASFAN (Niger)
First leg: 0-0. Jeunesse won 3-0 on aggregate.
To be completed next weekend
Astres Douala (Cameroon) v US Bitam (Gabon) postponed. First leg: 0-0
Coton Sport (Cameroon) v Vital’O (Burundi) postponed. First leg: 2-2
Djoliba (Mali) v East End Lions (Sierra Leone) postponed. First leg: 2-0
Club Africain (Tunisia) v APR FC (Rwanda) postponed. First leg: 2-2