Tunisia’s Esperance and Egypt’s Zamalek face off in Doha Qatar

The AFC Champions League trophy. [Courtesy]


African football bosses will hope Friday’s Super Cup clash between Tunisia’s Esperance and Egypt’s Zamalek in Doha overshadows the fiasco over the way Esperance qualified.

Esperance won the AFC Champions League after opponents Wydad Casablanca abandoned the final in protest at the organisers’ decision not to use VAR.

Play was stopped for more than an hour with the Moroccan side insisting they had not been told the video ref would not be deployed.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport named Esperance the winners after a bruising legal battle that did nothing to enhance the image of scandal-tainted African football.

CAF president Ahmad Ahmad faces allegations including corruption, financial misappropriation and sexual harassment but has not commented.

Friday’s fixture is fraught with political pitfalls. Zamalek initially said they would boycott. Egypt is one of four countries enforcing an economic boycott of Qatar over alleged backing for radical Islamist groups and for Iran. Doha denies the charges.

Zamalek’s board voted to play the match but the club’s colorful chairman Mortada Mansour warned his players in an online video that they were “traveling to a hostile country.”

– Blood and Gold vs the White Knights –

He suggested that Zamalek’s training jerseys in Qatar would be adorned with an image of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the words “Long live Egypt”, and the national flag.

The Super Cup is an annual one-off match pitting the winner of the CAF Champions League and second-tier CAF Confederation Cup against each other. It was staged in Africa from its inception in 1993 until last year when it moved to Qatar.

The match — with a 20,000 capacity crowd expected — may be a test for Qatar’s infrastructure but not for any of the 2022 World Cup venues as the game will be played at Al Gharafa, not one of the 2022 stadiums. It will kick off at 1600 GMT.

Esperance, known as “Blood and Gold” and “the White Knights” of Zamalek are among the giants of African football. The Tunisian side have won the Super Cup once and the Egyptian outfit on three occasions.

Esperance often start as many as seven non-Tunisians, including four Algerians, although star defender Abdelkader Bedrane is reportedly injured and will not play in Doha.

Zamalek rely heavily on Egyptians including star forward Mostafa Mohamed.