Cairo Derby: Al Ahly vs Zamalek – Rivalry Reignited in Egypt Cup Final


Date: March 8, 2024
Time: 19:00 Cairo Local Time | 12:00 ET Canada-USA
Stadium: Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, Saudi Arabia

In a significant occasion highlighting Saudi Arabia’s expanding presence in the world of sports, the Riyadh Season prepares to host the highly anticipated Egypt Cup Final featuring two of Egypt’s football powerhouses, Al Ahly and Zamalek SC “Cairo Derby”. The historic showdown is set to take place on March 8 at the iconic Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh.

Stroll through Cairo on Friday, March 8, at 7 PM, and you’ll encounter mostly deserted streets. In cafes, patrons will be segregated into two camps: red and white.

In a nation of 110 million fervent football enthusiasts, this marks the pinnacle clash of the year: Al Ahly versus Zamalek, famously known as the Cairo Derby. As with many of their encounters, the 177th installment of this historic rivalry will determine the victor of a prestigious prize, the Egyptian Cup.

It ranks among the most intense derbies in the world.

Championing Glory: A Legacy of Trophies

Out of the 64 seasons of the Egyptian League, the two clubs have collectively clinched 57, with Al Ahly dominating the majority, securing 43 league titles.

In the venerable African contest, the Egyptian Cup, the two clubs have amassed a total of 66 victories, with Al Ahly claiming it 38 times and Al Zamalek 28 times. Intriguingly, they shared the title twice, in 1942–1943 and 1958–1959.

Both clubs stand as the epitome of success in African competitions. Al Ahly leads the pack with an impressive haul of trophies, including 11 CAF Champions League titles, 4 African Winners Cups, 8 African Super Cups, and 1 CAF Confederation Cup. Additionally, they hold the record for the most appearances in FIFA Club World Cups, securing third place on four occasions.

Meanwhile, Zamalek has also left an indelible mark with 5 CAF Champions League titles, 1 African Winners Cup, 4 African Super Cups, and 1 CAF Confederation Cup to their name.

176 Encounters

The two clubs have faced off 176 times in total. In league matches, they’ve competed 126 times, with Al Ahly emerging victorious in 49 encounters, Zamalek in 27, and 50 matches ending in a draw.

Their clashes in the Egyptian Cup amount to 27 matches, with Al Ahly prevailing in 16, Zamalek in 11, and 5 ending in a draw. Notably, Zamalek has clinched victory in the last three finals between them.

Interestingly, it’s noteworthy that cup matches between these clubs have never been decided by penalties. Instead, drawn matches were replayed. Since the abolishment of replays, no cup fixture between them has ended in a draw.

In the Egyptian Super Cup, the dynamic shifts. Over eight encounters, Al Ahly has claimed victory in four, while the remaining four ended in a draw.

Notably, Zamalek has never managed to defeat Al Ahly within regular or extra time in the Super Cup. Their only two victories in this competition against Al Ahly came through penalty shootouts.

Champions League Glory

Turning to the CAF Champions League, Zamalek has yet to conquer Al Ahly. In their nine meetings in this prestigious tournament, Al Ahly has emerged triumphant six times, with three matches ending in a deadlock. However, Al Ahly secured a pivotal victory over Zamalek in the 2020 CAF Champions League final, a contest of immense significance.

In the African Super Cup, Zamalek holds the advantage, securing a 1-0 victory in their sole encounter in 1994.

Since the turn of the millennium, Al Ahly has enjoyed an unparalleled era of dominance, setting a historic benchmark in the realm of football.

Al Ahly has clinched the Egyptian League title 13 times since the 2000s, achieving the double on five occasions and the quadruple twice. Additionally, they have secured nine African Champions League trophies during this remarkable period of success.

In contrast, since the 2004–2005 season, Zamalek has managed to defeat Al Ahly only six times out of 54 meetings between the two clubs. In their most recent five encounters, Al Ahly emerged victorious in four and settled for a draw in one.

Al Ahly further solidified their legacy by claiming victory in the African Game of the Century, triumphing over Zamalek in the CAF Champions League Final of 2020.

It’s fair to assert that Al Ahly supporters have predominantly relished the Cairo Derby bragging rights over the past two decades. For the younger generation of Al Ahly fans, they’ve been privileged to witness a period of unprecedented dominance in both derby matches and trophy acquisitions, a feat rarely paralleled in football history.

It’s all about the Fans!

Both groups of fans persistently banter about their respective club’s achievements, each considering their own as the pinnacle of success.

Al Ahly enthusiasts frequently highlight their unparalleled historic dominance, often boasting that their trophy cabinet surpasses the combined total of two or three other clubs. Conversely, Zamalek loyalists proudly proclaim their club’s unique distinction as the only team worldwide to claim seven trophies in a single season.

Known as The Royal Club, Zamalek’s supporters contend that Al Ahly’s popularity in Egypt and Africa creates an uneven playing field. They consistently lament perceived biases in refereeing, alleging favoritism towards Al Ahly. However, Red Devils fans counter such claims by attributing their success in Africa and the Club World Cup to their outstanding performances rather than external influences.

The title of African Club of the Century remains a contentious issue between the rival fan bases. Zamalek supporters argue that their club deserves the accolade due to their extensive record of African triumphs throughout the past century. On the other hand, Al Ahly supporters assert that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) bestowed the title upon their club, indicating it was rightfully earned.

The dispute escalated to the point where Zamalek threatened legal action through FIFA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to contest the title.

Additionally, the biggest victory in Derby history is another source of contention. Zamalek enthusiasts claim ownership of this record, citing their 6-0 victories over Al Ahly in the Cairo League matches of 1942 and 1944. However, Al Ahly supporters argue that these matches were merely friendly competitions and assert their 6-1 league victory over Zamalek in 2002 as the true pinnacle of Derby triumphs.

The rivalry between the two clubs is palpable and intense. Matches are typically officiated by foreign referees to mitigate any suspicions of bias toward either club, ensuring that neither set of supporters can accuse the officials of favoritism.

In the days leading up to and following the match, conversations on the streets of Cairo will predominantly revolve around the game, with fans from both sides engaging in playful banter and teasing.

Zamalek made significant moves in January by signing 11 players after a transfer ban, instilling confidence among their fans about halting Al Ahly’s streak of title victories. Zamalek supporters believe that Al Ahly’s recent string of successes is partially attributed to Zamalek’s absence due to the transfer ban.

Conversely, Al Ahly has clinched five trophies in the past year: the League title, the CAF Champions League, an Egyptian Cup, two Egyptian Super Cups, and secured third place in the Club World Cup.

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