RIYADH: Africa are yet to complete their Champions League semi-finals but Monday’s announcement that the final will be held in Morocco did not sit well with Egypt whose football governing body is ready to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Last weekend, Cairo giants Al-Ahly beat ES Sétif of Algeria 4-0 in the first leg at home to put more foot in the final and stay on course for a third straight continental title provided they avoid disaster in Algiers on Saturday (although Sétif prepared for the second leg by beating Relizane 7-0 in the league on Tuesday).
In the other game of the last four, Wydad Casablanca won 3-1 away against Angola’s Petro de Luanda and returned to Morocco for the second leg on Friday, have every chance of booking their place for the final which will take place on May 30. .
On Monday, just 48 hours after the first leg, the Confederation of African Football announced that Morocco would host the final for the second consecutive year.
A CAF spokesperson said: “CAF received offers from Senegal and Morocco and after the Senegalese offer was subsequently withdrawn, Morocco was awarded the hosting rights.”
With the final likely to be between Al-Ahly and Moroccan Wydad, the decision in Egypt sparked widespread anger. In a letter to CAF, Al-Ahly called for the match to be played elsewhere.
In a statement, the club said: “Al-Ahly stressed in the letter that the final should not be hosted by any of the countries of the four teams participating in the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League and that a neutral venue will provide equal opportunities for all four teams.
“Al-Ahly stressed that the match should be played at a neutral venue, since CAF did not choose the host country at an earlier stage, noting that giving one of the four teams the home advantage in the final contradicts the standards of fair play.
“Al-Ahly expressed his full confidence in the professionalism and fairness of CAF and his commitment to preserving equal rights for the four competing teams.”
Al-Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane led the team to the last two continental titles and took to social media to comment on the decision.
In a message, he said: “When the CAF Champions League group stage matches ended there were rumors that SA (South Africa) would host. After the semi-final matches were decided, there was a big silence on the country to host the final. Then, after the first leg of the semi-finals, suddenly, Morocco hosts.
The club’s stance was supported by the Egyptian Football Association.
EFA board member Amer Hussein said: “The decision to choose the venue came late, after playing the first legs of the semi-finals, and that’s strange. It would have been preferable to hold the final in a neutral stadium or to announce it at the start of the tournament.
“The timing of the game itself is illogical. How can the Champions League final take place shortly before the national teams are in international action? »
Egypt are due to face Guinea in Cairo on June 2 in the opening match of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, just 48 hours after the Champions League final. Several Al-Ahly players are members of the national team.
Behind the scenes, CAF officials informed that they had no choice in the matter as only Morocco remained after Senegal pulled out. Unlike Europe, where final sites are announced years in advance and there are usually a number of interested parties, Africa has struggled to attract neutral sites.
The confederation is considering a return to the old two-legged home-and-away format to avoid such controversies in the future.
Naturally, Wydad AC coach Walid Regragui was at pains to point out that his side had yet to book their place in the final and was also keen to point out that the two-time champions didn’t care where it was happening.
He said: “We are ready to play anywhere. CAF has decided to play the final in Morocco, and we must respect their decision. It doesn’t matter to us where the final will take place. We are ready to play in Dakar, in Istanbul, or anywhere else. We have won four away wins in this edition and we are ready to claim a fifth.
Assuming Al-Ahly and Wydad pass the second legs, there will certainly be more feuds to come before the end of the month.