Al Ahly try to derail Sundowns

Sundowns players celebrate the hammering of Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League first leg on Saturday.
Sundowns players celebrate the hammering of Al Ahly in the CAF Champions League first leg on Saturday.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Al Ahly have apparently begun their mind games and unsporting antics in their desperate attempt to overturn a heavy 5-0 hammering at the hands of Mamelodi Sundowns in the CAF Champions League quarterfinals after irregularly changing the venue for Saturday's second leg (6pm). The Egyptian club have moved the match from the Egyptian Army Stadium in Suez to the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria, 350km away from the capital Cairo.

In approving the venue switch, CAF has broken its own rules. CAF has for decades been accused of acting favourably towards north African teams and the latest approval will add fuel to those rumours.

CAF regulations state clearly that the venue and date of any knockout match is set 10 days before the kickoff day and cannot be changed thereafter.

Rule 9.2 of the CAF Champions League regulations reads: "The place, date (Friday, Saturday or Sunday) and the time of kickoff of the 1/16th finals, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals are set by the host federation who shall inform the general secretariat of CAF, the opposing team, the referees and the [match] commissioner at least 10 days before the match. After this notification, neither the kickoff time, the day of the match nor the match venue can be changed except if there is an agreement communicated to CAF between the two teams."

Though this rule has since been amended and only CAF can decide the date (now only Friday and Saturday) and kickoff time, it still states when a venue can be changed.

Sundowns acting general manager Yogesh Singh said the club had not agreed to any venue change with their opponents.

"We only found out on Sunday that it was moved from Suez to Alexandria. According to the rules this is not allowed," Singh told Sowetan.

"This is what we go through in this competition and CAF allows that somehow even though it's not according to the rules.

"I wrote to CAF yesterday demanding an explanation and we want them to be liable for our costs. You can imagine we have already made hotel bookings and we have written to Safa as well to let them know about these shenanigans."

Another CAF rule that has been broken is that the venue must be less than 200km from the landing airport. The Borg El Arab Stadium is 244km from the Cairo International Airport.

Sundowns flew out last night as planned but management will have to change their itinerary.

"We are busy working on changing a few things like the hotel and training facility," Singh said.

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