Described as the most violent derby in world football, the Cairo Derby between Al Ahly Sporting Club and Zamalek Sporting Club also pairs two of Africa’s most successful teams.
Dating back to the 1920’s and the birth of the Cairo League and Prince Farouk Cup, both teams became the superpower rivals of their city with Al Ahly winning 15 league titles to 14 of Zamalek during the competitions 36 year history.
Al Ahly, founded in 1907 as Egypt’s first 100% national club are one of the most successful sides on the planet with 39 Egyptian Premier League titles since 1948, 36 Egypt Cup wins and 8 African Champions Cup victories amongst many more trophies they have in their cabinet.
Zamalek, founded by English ex-patriots over 100 years ago is seen by many less privileged as the opposition or enemy to the peoples club Al Ahly. Originally supported by the middle-classes, government runners and overseas ex-pats they have a mere 12 Egyptian titles 25 Cups and 5 Champions Leagues.
The tie became an almost political event over the years and it was not uncommon to see fighting between fans, riots, even death simply down to tension between the two sets of supporters. A recent ban on fans attending games in Egypt has put a stop to this temporarily at least.
On the pitch, Al Ahly have the edge with almost twice as many wins as Zamalek in over 150 games. Great players to have played for both clubs include Ayman Shawky and Hossam Hassan. Here are three of the most notable matches in the two clubs avid and illustrious history.
1944: Farouk 6-0 Al Ahly (Egypt Cup Final, Cairo)
Zamalek were re-named in 1940 after the much disliked King Farouk who present at the game also supported the team and even bared his name on the Egypt Cup until a couple of years earlier.
Farouk won two matches before receiving a walkover in the semi-final as opponents Al Masry withdrew protesting the game not to be played in Cairo. Al Ahly won all their three games without conceding to tee up a much anticipated match against their biggest rivals who they shared the cup with the previous year after both teams had ineligible players, but it was the recent league champions who came out comfortable winners in the final by a record 6-0 score in one of the biggest victories between the two sides. Mahmoud Hafez scored a hat-trick whilst El-Sahaimi grabbed two and a further goal from Abdel-Karim Sakr completed the rout.
2014: Zamalek 0-1 Al Ahly (Egyptian Premier League Championship Playoff, Cairo)
The first season of football after the devastating Port Stadium Riots (where 74 people died following fights between Al Misry and Al Ahly supporters) saw a league format split in to two groups of 11 with matches played behind closed doors. Al Ahly topped one table and Zamalek the other. This meant a Championship Playoff round with the top two in each group playing four more matches with the winner securing the title.
It was the first round of matches and Al Ahly faced Zamalek on neutral territory having won the league for the last seven seasons and an own goal from Ahmed Tawfik gave the Red Devils another victory en-route to their 37th Premier League title.
2016: Zamalek 3-1 Al Ahly (Egypt Cup Final, Cairo)
Al Ahly had just wrestled back the league title from Zamalek winners the previous year (in doing so stopping Al Ahly winning nine in a row) to record their 38th Egyptian championship. The two teams had earlier played out a scoreless draw in a meaningless last game of the season at the Suez Stadium but the cup final was up for grabs as the two sides faced off at the Borg El Arab Stadium.
Zamalek, who beat Al Ahly the year before in the same cup final took the lead on the 20th minute through star striker Basem Morsy. Five minutes later the Egyptian International made it two from the spot after captain Shikabala was bundled over by Samir. In an entertaining half Al Ahly reduced the defecit from the spot when Said sent the goalkeeper the wrong way but Mostafa Fathi on the hour ran through to smartly slot home after a delicate pass by Ayman Hefny. Drama followed in the closing minutes when first Hossam Ghaly then Ahmed Fathy were sent off for Al Ahly, proving tension between the two sides no matter the outcome is as hostile as ever.
Quick Fact: Abdel-Karim Sakr leads the way with 17 as top goalscorer in the derby. Scoring 10 for Al Ahly and 7 for Zamalek (under their old names) during the 1930’s and 40’s.