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With new power rising in Egyptian football, reigning champions Ahly may find it harder to retain title
Published in Ahram Online on 30 - 07 - 2018

Ahly, Egypt's undisputed dominant force, could face an unusual struggle to retain a league title they had won the past three years as the new season kicks off on Tuesday amid excitement over the rise of a new power who hogged headlines with publicity stunts.
Pyramids FC, formerly known as Al-Assiouty Sport who finished ninth in the Egyptian Premier League last season, were bought by a Saudi investor who used to be the honorary president of Ahly before falling out with the mighty Cairo giants and deciding to launch his own project in the summer.
Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi Arabia's General Sports Authority, is an avid social media user who constantly shares posts from the official pages of Pyramids FC, outlining an ambitious agenda to dethrone Ahly and cause a huge upset.
The club splashed out huge sums of money on new recruits, bringing in a number of Brazilian players including midfielder Rodriguinho Marinho from Corinthians and landing a handful of up-and-coming Egyptian footballers, with his lucrative offers too hard to reject for many of the country's cash-strapped clubs.
Pyramids also launched their own television channel and hired some of Egypt's most prominent football analysts, attracting media attention ahead of the start of the new season. The club's slogan is "we are coming to win the league."
Can they, really?
Ahly, winners of 11 out of the last 12 league editions, have been uncharacteristically slow in the transfer window, making only several low-profile signings. Their only astute acquisition might be the signing of Malian central defender Salif Coulibaly, who impressed in his first two games with the Red Devils in the African Champions League.
With Pyramids investing heavily in building an entirely new team, rampant inflation coursed through the transfer market, making it difficult for Ahly to lure big names. That was uncommon for a club of the pedigree of Ahly, whose ability to flex muscles in the transfer window has been always unmatched.
Zamalek, Ahly's perennial challengers for the league title and their bitter cross-town rivals, might have finished a disappointing fourth in the league last term but they approach the new season with high expectations after a busy summer.
They recalled from loan two of the players who helped them to a rare domestic double in 2015 - Mahmoud Kahraba and Mostafa Fathi - and also brought in the likes of Tunisian international midfielder Ferjani Sassi, Moroccan winger Hamid Ahaddad and Ismaily's highly-rated playmaker Ibrahim Hassan.
Many observers are expecting an unusual three-horse race for the coveted title between Ahly, Pyramids and Zamalek.
"Why can't we believe and fight (for the league title)? It's our right to aim big. It will be a miracle if we can win the league," said Pyramids FC spokesman Ahmed Hassan, Egypt's former skipper and the world's most capped player.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)


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