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Following the locals
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 02 - 12 - 2004

A strong Egyptian presence marked the start of the second round of the Arab football Champions League. Mohamed El-Sayed reports
The last 16 group phase of the Arab Champions League kicked off last week, with three Egyptian teams, Zamalek, Ismaili and Ghazl Al-Mehalla, in action.
In Cairo last Thursday, in Group A, Zamalek, who finished third in last year's edition, throttled the dean of Algerian clubs, Mauludiyet Al-Jazaer, 5-0. Having qualified for this stage after beating Al-Karama of Syria 1-0 on aggregate, Zamalek, or the White House, played their first match under the leadership of their returning Brazilian coach Carlos Cabral.
Serving as the man of the match, Zamalek's Gamal Hamza hit the first two goals in the 21st and 46th minutes and produced the two pinpoint passes that led to the fourth and fifth from Sameh Youssef and Tarek El- Said in the 81st and 88th. Having wasted several gilt- edged opportunities throughout the game, the still out- of-form Walid Abdel-Latif scored the third in the 72nd minute.
The sweeping win rendered Zamalek the leaders of their group that include Sfax of Tunisia and Kuwait of Kuwait who were scheduled to play last night as the paper went to press.
If the victory helped Zamalek fans forget a string of disappointing performances in the Egyptian league, they were upset again after Cabral stated he could not promise a championship this season. "There are many weaknesses in the squad that should be addressed in the coming period," said Cabral, who took over after German Dragoslav Stepanovic left. Cabral won three titles with Zamalek during the 2002-2003 season before leaving the team and moving to Al-Arabi of Qatar. According to the terms of his new contract, he will receive $50,000 in advance and make $15,000 a month.
Meanwhile, the head coach of the Algerian side Abdul-Rahman Mahdawi, will be seeking his fortune elsewhere after submitting his resignation before leaving Cairo in the aftermath of the defeat. Having received a drubbing the week before against Shabibat Al-Qaba'el in the Algerian league, furious fans could only welcome the team with verbal insults upon their arrival at Algeria airport.
On Friday in Group C, Ismaili of Egypt, the runners- up last year, managed a hard-fought, precious away 2-1 win over Faisali of Jordan in Amman. Omar Gamal fired the visitors ahead in the 12th minute before Ahmed Fathi, in the top 50 Under-20 players in 2003 according to World Soccer magazine, stretched his team's lead in the 72nd minute. Playing with 10 men starting from the 65th minute following Amr Fahim's dismissal, Ismaili, known as the Dervishes, still dominated throughout.
It was the third time for Fahim to be shown the red card in the Arab League -- last year he was red-carded twice.
The home side were awarded two penalties. The first was saved by Mohamed Fathi, but Raked Al-Awdan netted the second in the 89th minute.
Having qualified to the last 16 after blanking Teshrin of Syria 5-0 on aggregate, Ismaili are now in second place on goal difference behind Hilal of Saudi Arabia who edged the African Club of Tunisia 3-1 in Riyadh.
The third Egyptian team, Ghazl Al-Mehalla, got off to a shaky start in Group B, losing 2-0 to Ahli Qatar in Doha last Thursday. The Egyptian squad, which is also called the Farmers, could not translate the golden chances that came their way throughout the game. Being a newcomer to the competition, Al-Mehalla's loss was directly attributed to inexperience.
The other two teams in the group, Ittihad Jeddah of Saudi Arabia and Wifaq Steif of Algeria, will meet on 25 December.
In Group D, Nasr Hussein-Dey of Algeria drew 1-1 with Widad of Morocco, and Tunisian Bizertin were held to a goalless draw with Ahli Jeddah of Saudi Arabia.
The Arab Champions League, organised by the Arab cable TV network ART, is being challenged by another Arab football tournament to be organised by the satellite channel Al-Jazeera Sport. Prize money from Al- Jazeera will reach $30 million compared to $6 million given by ART.
No date has been set for the event's inauguration..


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