Al Ahly 'victims of lack of fair play' ahead of African Champions League final

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Percy Tau in action for Al AhlySouth Africa striker Percy Tau is hoping to fire Al Ahly to a record-extending 11th African Champions League win
Date: Monday, 30 May Venue: Stade Mohammed V Kick-off: 19:00 GMT

An Al Ahly official has claimed the club is the "victim of a lack of fair play and scheduling hiccups" ahead of the African Champions League final against Morocco's Wydad Casablanca.

Egyptian giants Al Ahly, record 10-time continental champions, have been in dispute with the Confederation of African Football (Caf), the competition's organisers, over both the chosen venue for the match and its timing.

The Stade Mohammed V - Wydad's home ground - will host the final on Monday, 30 May, which is the first day of an international window when clubs are obliged by world governing body Fifa to release players.

As a result, Egypt re-arranged the dates for its 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Guinea and Ethiopia from 2 and 6 June to 5 and 9 June.

Al Ahly were also forced to play at the Fifa Club World Cup in February without several internationals, as that tournament clashed with the closing stages of this year's Nations Cup.

"Sport is about fairness, equality and fair play: this is our objective and should be Caf's too," Al Ahly chief executive Amr Shaheen told BBC Sport Africa.

"This is not the first time for Al Ahly to suffer from procedurals setbacks due to the lack of synchronisation between the African calendar and the international calendar.

"Now we are facing the same situation again in less than three months. We have received letters from national associations asking us to release their players for the Fifa international break on 30 May.

"We have 12 international players in our squad from six different nationalities. If our players keep on missing all the important matches and events for reasons beyond Al Ahly's and the players' control, this will be a waste of Al Ahly funds.

"The situation is a huge concern."

Al Ahly has told the various national associations who have requested the release of their players of the club's situation, telling them that the various individuals will be released directly after the game.

Shortly after the decision was taken on 9 May to stage the final at Wydad's home ground, Al Ahly appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport - but that complaint was rejectedexternal-link by sport's highest legal body on Thursday.

Decision to introduce one-off final 'wrong'

Taher Mohamed celebrates scoring for Al AhlyAl Ahly are on the hunt for an unprecedented third African Champions League title in a row

The Champions League final used to be a two-legged home-and-away affair, but a one-off format - as used by Uefa in the European Champions League - was introduced by Caf in 2020.

Ahly beat Cairo rivals Zamalek to the title that year in the Egyptian capital and Pitso Mosimane's side retained the trophy last July against Kaizer Chiefs at the Stade Mohammed V.

Al Ahly had requested a neutral venue for this year's final, but Caf said Morocco was the only option after Senegal - the only other interested party - withdrew a bid to stage the match.

Wydad's home in Casablanca was chosen despite other stadia in Morocco being available - and Al Ahly fans are likely to be outnumbered in the Stade Mohammed V on Monday.

Shaheen described the appeal to Cas as an attempt to "defend Al Ahly's genuine rights" and "seek justice", while Caf has said talks are under way to revert to the old two-match final.

Both clubs will receive an allocation of 10,000 tickets, but Wydad supporters are expected to snap up the majority of another 20,000 which will be put on general sale.

Ahly says it will provide funding of 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($160) for its supporters who make one-day trips to Morocco.

"The decision to play one single match instead of two legs was wrong in the first place," Shaheen said

"Africa is different to Europe - we do not have open borders, free circulation, same currency or common laws.

"The vast majority of African fans cannot fly to attend matches, enjoy a meal and tour the city they are flying to on the same day, have access to the game and return back to their office desk the next morning to tell their colleagues about the wonderful experience they had."

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