Tuesday, September 22, 2020

a very political final in Doha

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Supporters of the Espérance de Tunis club against Qatar Al-Sadd during the final of the FIFA Club World Cup organized by Doha, Qatar, on December 17, 2019. GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP

After its fiasco in the African Champions League, the African Confederation (CAF) must smooth its image, Friday, February 14, during its Super Cup organized in Doha (Qatar) between Esperance of Tunis and the Egyptian club Zamalek, a encounter nevertheless caught up by geopolitical tensions.

A few months ago, the Tunisian club was not guaranteed to play this match, which opposes every year, in a single match, the winner of the African Champions League and that of the Confederation Cup ( second continental level).

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Because, to know the name of the winner of the African C1, it was necessary to wait for a long soap opera from May to August: the Arbitral Tribunal for Sport (CAS) ruled in favor of Esperance after a controversial final return in late May , sanctioning the Moroccan club Wydad of Casablanca for having left the lawn in protest against a breakdown of assistance to video arbitration (VAR), which could have validated a goal refused by the referee.

This legal battle has further tarnished the image of CAF and its controversial president Ahmad Ahmad, who is the target of suspected corruption. Following the scandal, FIFA number two Fatma Samoura headed a six-month mission to oversee the African organization, shaken by controversy and governance issues. Suffice to say that CAF is in dire need of a return to normalcy on Friday, while Fatma Samoura’s mission was not renewed on February 2.

Geopolitical tensions

But since last year, the CAF Super Cup, created in 1993, has been played in Doha. And geopolitical tensions in the Middle East between Qatar and Egypt have caught up to the meeting in recent days. Zamalek president Mortada Mansour has warned his players that they will play on Friday "In hostile country" in Doha.

The Cairo club first announced that it would boycott the match, with Egypt being one of the four countries to impose an economic boycott on Qatar due to the emirate's support for Iran and radical Islamist groups, what Doha denies.

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The Zamalek finally decided to participate, but Mortada Mansour proposed that the players put on training shirts with the image of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the words "Long live Egypt" and the national flag.

Anyway, 20,000 supporters are expected for the meeting between these two giants of African football: the Tunisian "Blood and Gold" have already won this Super Cup once, the "White Knights" of Zamalek won it three times.

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