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Record eight-time winners Al Ahly of Egypt pose before a CAF Champions League quarter-final against Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa near Pretoria this season © AFP Phill Magakoe

Sports

Several nations want to host CAF Champions League mini-tournament

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 17 – Egypt, Tunisia and possibly a Middle East country will be candidates to replace Cameroon as hosts of the 2019/2020 CAF Champions League semi-finals and final.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Ahmad Ahmad announced this month the closing stages of the premier African club competition would be staged in Douala.

But the recently completed 60,000-seat Japoma Stadium in the Atlantic port city has been ruled out as hosts of the September mini-tournament mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There were also concerns seasonal downpours in the central African country could affect the match schedule, earmarked for dates during September that have not been finalised.

The Egypt Football Association said they were ready to replace Cameroon, and pointed to their successful hosting of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations and Olympics qualifying tournaments.

No venue was mentioned but it would almost certainly be the Cairo International Stadium or the Borg el Arab Stadium near Mediterranean city Alexandria.

Champions League semi-finalists Raja Casablanca and Wydad Casablanca from Morocco might object to such a decision, though, as they face Egyptian opponents Zamalek and Al Ahly.

A major factor in Ahly and Zamalek becoming the two of the three most successful clubs in CAF competitions is the unrelenting support from packed stands.

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But that advantage will not count if Egypt are selected as hosts because the matches are due to be played behind closed doors.

– Objection would be ironic –

A Moroccan objection would be ironic as the capital of the kingdom, Rabat, will host the semi-finals and final of the second-tier CAF Confederation Cup, which includes two local sides.

Renaissance Berkane face Hassania Agadir in the semi-finals, guaranteeing a Moroccan presence in the final against Pyramids of Egypt or Horoya of Guinea.

Tunis wanted to host the Champions League semi-finals and final, only to lose out to Douala, and would be a logical choice with the city roughly halfway between Casablanca and Cairo.

However, Ahmad and his CAF executives have unhappy memories of the Stade Olympique in the Tunisian capital.

The second leg of the last Champions League final, between local club Esperance and Wydad, was abandoned when the Moroccans walked off after an aggregate-levelling goal was ruled out.

CAF initially ordered a replay at a neutral venue, then complied with the competition rules and declared Esperance champions.

Were CAF to opt for a Middle East venue, as a senior official in the Cairo-based organisation has hinted, Qatar would be a possible candidate.

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The host of the 2022 World Cup staged the last two editions of the CAF Super Cup, an annual match between the Champions League and Confederation Cup title holders.

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