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CAF Champions League: Ahly fans in a frenzy ahead of Wydad final

Sat, 04 Nov 2017
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Cairo: Fever pitch has reached such a tipping point in Egypt ahead of Al Ahly's bid to win a record-extending ninth African Champions League crown that students are even skipping lectures to watch the team.

Ahly travel to Wydad Casablanca of Morocco in the second leg of the CAF Champions League final on Saturday having been held to a 1-1 draw in last week's first leg in Alexandria.

Millions of Egyptian fans are expected to watch the clash, including Ahmed Abu Saada, a student prepared to travel all the way to Morocco to cheer on the "Cairo Red Devils".

"I'm a student at Al-Azhar University. I've left my lectures to attend this match," said Abu Saada, one of an expected 1,000 Ahly fans set to travel to Morocco.

It's Ahly's first final since securing back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 and their absence from the continent's showpiece club event has only served to stoke expectation.

On Tuesday, Ahly were forced to cancel training due to a massive crowd of fans that had crammed into their stadium, blocking players from getting onto the field.

Festooned in red, the team's colours, they chanted: "Africa, hey Ahly."

Some even carried banners reminding the team of the 74 fans who died in stadium clashes and a stampede in 2012, asking the club to win the trophy in their memory.

"Just watching the fans chant impelled me to gather the players in the locker room. I told them these fans can move stones, and you must fight and struggle in the match to return with the cup," coach Hossam El Badry said on the team's website.

Ahly arrived in Morocco on Thursday to face Wydad, whose coach Hussein Amotta insists will not try to "park the bus" at the Mohamed V stadium in order to earn only a second CAF Champions League crown, having triumphed in 1992.

Six years ago they reached the final but lost to Esperance of Tunisia.

Before Ahly's departure, coach El Badry said: "We're looking at 90 minutes of hard work in which we hope to get the title we've been missing since 2013."

Ten thousand policemen will be deployed to provide security for the match, local media reported, with a safety cordon set up around visiting fans.

Almost 50,000 fans are expected at the sold out match.

Amotta believes it will be a tense affair.

"Mental comfort will be more important that physical," he told a Moroccan website.

Ahly's 2013 cup-winning coach, Mohammed Youssef said the Egyptians always rise to the big occasion, as their record of eight victories in 10 finals attests.

"They excel at finals and fighting till the end, and I expect them to return with the cup," he said.

He added that the huge crowd could prove a "double edged sword" for the hosts.

"Wydad players may get nervous amid all their fans which gives Ahly an edge in morale," he said.

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