Ahly begin life without legend Gomaa
06 June 2014, 12:25
Johannesburg - Egyptians Al-Ahly begin life in Africa without legendary defender Wael Gomaa this weekend when they visit Ivorians Sewe San Pedro in the CAF Confederation Cup.
The matchday 3 Abidjan fixture is among four spread over three days in the second-tier African club competition before the clubs break until late July.
Spectators at Stade Robert Champroux in the Ivorian commercial capital will witness the unusual sight of Ahly lining up without the now-retired centre-back they call the 'Rock'.
Ahly have been the dominant force in pan-African competitions since the dawn of the 21st century, winning the CAF Champions League and CAF Super Cup six times each.
During that spell, the Cairo 'Red Devils' have also captured the national league title seven times, the national cup three times and the national super cup six times.
And shaven-haired 1.84-metre tall Gomaa, who turns 39 this August, has been a pivotal figure in all those domestic and African successes.
He headed the ball powerfully, timed his tackles perfectly, was a master at reading a game, and his passes invariably found an Ahly or Egypt team-mate.
He was capped more than 100 times by his country and helped the 'Pharaohs' win a record three consecutive Africa Cup of Nations titles between 2006 and 2010.
But as the years passed, the centre-back inevitably slowed, and was brutally exposed by the quick-silver Ghana attackers in a 2014 World Cup qualifying play-off.
His farewell to Africa came in a 1-1 Confederation Cup draw at Tunisians Etoile Sahel last month, and Gomaa will work as a TV pundit during the World Cup in Brazil.
Caretaker Ahly coach Fathy Mabrouk must also do without injured Sherif Abdel-Fadil, Emad Moteab, Mohamed 'Gedo' Nagy, Abdallah El-Saied and Walid Soliman.
Demoted to the Confederation Cup after losing a Champions League qualifier, Ahly top Group B with four points from a home win over Zambians Nkana and the draw with Etoile.
Sewe, alone among the eight title challengers in never having reached a CAF final, drew with Etoile and Nkana and share second place with the Tunisians.
Nkana miss suspended defenders Billy Mwanza and Noel Phiri away to Etoile, winners of the 2006 Confederation Cup and runners-up two seasons later.
The mini-league phase this year has been dominated by draws -- five in seven games -- and there could be more as the Group A fixtures seem evenly balanced.
Leaders Coton Sport must do without Cameroon World Cup-bound goalkeeper Loic Feudjou and defender Cedric Djeugoue when they tackle Ivorians ASEC Mimosas in Abidjan.
Congo Brazzaville outfit AC Leopards have drawn three previous Confederation Cup games in Mali and a similar outcome against Real Bamako would not be surprising.