Orlando Pirates and AC Leopards could walk into the semifinals of the Caf Champions League after Caf threatened Egyptian giants Al-Ahly and Zamalek with a ban, should their fans violate existing sanctions.
The Egyptian clubs, who share 12 titles between them in the biggest inter-club tournament on the continent, play their opening match in the group stages tomorrow night behind closed doors.
A riot at Port Said Stadium in February last year, where more than 70 people died during a match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry, led to a suspension of the Egyptian domestic league.
When football returned last September, it was played behind closed doors because of security concerns, but fans of Al-Ahly, Zamalek stormed into closed stadiums regardless.
Earlier this month, the domestic league was suspended indefinitely after a military coup, which led to the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi.
The political situation opened the possibility of Al-Ahly and Zamalek playing their Champions League home matches outside of Egypt.
Instead, the Cairo derby has been moved 430km away from the Egyptian capital to El-Gouna, where the two clubs will play behind closed doors.
Should fans again defy the order, the two teams could be expelled from the tournament.
Last year, Caf expelled Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel in the group stages of the Champions League, when fans invaded the pitch in a match against rivals Esperance.
“The club’s football administrator was warned by Caf that Zamalek and Al-Ahly could be dismissed from the competition if their fans stormed the stadium on Wednesday,” Ahram Online quoted a statement from Zamalek’s website. Tomorrow’s match was originally scheduled to be played on Sunday, the same weekend where Pirates and AC Leopards played to a goalless draw.
Pirates are scheduled to visit Al-Ahly in two weeks while Leopards host Zamalek in Congo-Brazzaville.
Bucs coach Roger de Sa admitted that the club is in the dark on how or where the match will be played with the current unrest in Egypt.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” De Sa said. “We have to keep our ears on the ground. They (Al-Ahly and Zamalek) didn’t play each other this weekend.”
If things stay as they are, Pirates will play Al-Ahly and Zamalek behind closed doors in Egypt.
That means Pirates will only face a hostile crowd once, when they visit AC Leopards in the group stages.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage,” De Sa said.
“Sometimes you think that an empty stadium takes the pressure away and the players play better, but sometimes it can also demotivate players.
“We are used to playing in front of big crowds so to go there and play like it’s a training match… I don’t know what it’s like.
“I hope it goes our way and that it motivates our players because they are tough teams to face. They are two of the strongest teams in Africa if you look at their records.”
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