FIFA Club World Championship Toyota Cup Japan 2005

11 December - 18 December

FIFA Club World Cup 2005

Al Ahly, kings of Africa

How often cup finals turn on a single moment of brilliance and Saturday's success for Al Ahly of Egypt in the African Champions League came from just such inspiration.

It was after 20 tense minutes of the second leg of the final at Cairo's Military Academy stadium that Mohamed Aboutrika unleashed a sweetly struck effort from some 30 metres and watched as it dipped and swerved through the air before crashing into the back of the net.

"We were nervous in the beginning because after 0-0 in the first leg it was a dangerous situation to be in," reflected Al Ahly's coach Manuel Jose in the chaotic celebrations that followed the Egyptian club's 3-0 triumph over Tunisia's Etoile Sahel.

"But it was such a beautiful goal that it changed everything. They were beaten from that moment on," he said of Al Ahly's opponents, condemned to pick up the runners-up medals for a second successive year.

Last time it was a narrow defeat on penalties but this year Etoile were handed a veritable footballing lesson from arguably one of the strongest sides African club football has ever seen.

"Strong," added Jose, "because we have taken a whole lot of different stars and turned them into a constellation. They are great guys.

"I told them at half-time we had nothing to fear anymore. We just had to go out and play our natural game and that's what we did. We deserved to win."

Al Ahly added two more goals after the break, finishing in convincing fashion for a 3-0 aggregate triumph over an Etoile Sahel side that had not lost a Champions League match since the preliminary knockout round back in April.

Turning the town redIt set the streets of Cairo into riotous celebration with youths dodging in between screaming traffic with the red colours of Al Ahly fluttering from car windows. 

Captain Osama Hosni, drafted into the starting line-up as Jose went with three strikers from the start, headed home the second goal seven minutes into the second half and the crowning touch could not have been more appropriately scripted as Mohamed Barakat made it 3-0 two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game.

The 29-year-old, astonishingly discarded in recent months by his country's national team, again emphasised his starring role in this year's African Champions League with a turbo-charged performance on the right-hand side.

His nimble frame sped everywhere throughout the game, bursting forward on attack or chasing back in defence. Twice in the closing stages Barakat came close to scoring, the second chance he uncharacteristically placed wide of goal with just the goalkeeper to beat.

But Barakat did get his just rewards in the end, turning to sprint into the arms of his Portuguese coach as the ball went into the back of the net.

"He plays on the right-hand side, in midfield or in attack and I tell you in all three positions he's the best player in Africa right now. All of my players want to go to Europe and play but I tell them they can play here just as well as any European team."

Jose's assertion could be tested sooner than expected with participation in the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup now to look ahead to as they savour US$1-million in prize money for winning the Champions League.

Of the upcoming trip to Japan, Jose says: "We have nothing to lose, so I think we can go and enjoy it. We can get to the final there … why not?"

Explore this topic