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El Khatib Provides Details about CAF Champions League Final Conflict 

CAF Champions League, Mahmoud El Khatib, Club

Mahmoud El Khatib, Al Ahly’s president, held a press conference on Saturday at 12:00 PM to provide details about what happened prior to the CAF Champions League final, which was held on 30 May at Mohammed V Stadium in Morocco.

The press conference saw the attendance of various local and international journalists and many well-known sports figures. 
Here is what captain El Khatib had to say on the events that occurred before the final: 

 “I am here today because the board decided to hold this press conference, whether we won the title or not. The reason behind this press conference is to clarify all the incidents that took place during the previous period.
Our action is not determined by winning the title or not. Al Ahly is bigger than any title and we have achieved many titles throughout our history. However, Al Ahly's duty towards our nation and our continent is to speak out against the negativities to avoid them occurring once again. 

What happened in the CAF Champions League final is not fair and the official who hid CAF's organization letter to the Egyptian Football Association did not only forfeit Al Ahly's rights but also Egypt's rights. We took the case to one of the legal consultancy firms and they told us that our situation in the case is not strong due to the EFA's mistake and the CAF's unclear regulations. However, we decided to take the case to CAS to preserve the club's rights so we requested CAS to postpone the match but our request was rejected as we expected”, El Khatib said. 

“As long as the CAF let Nigeria complete required criteria to host the CAF Confederation Cup final, why CAF did not grant them the chance to organize the CAF Champions League final as per their previous request?

Especially that Nigeria did not organize this event before. However, CAF allowed them to host the Confederation Cup final and picked Morocco to organize the Champions League final for the second consecutive year.

Also, CAF did not give South Africa, that asked to host the Champions League final, and Egypt, that asked to host the CAF Confederation Cup final, the chance to complete their files. Al Ahly SC and I do not have personal issues with CAF. 

We respect CAF leaders and I have a good relationship with Patrice Motsepe, CAF president. He is a respectable man and I was optimistic when he was elected as CAF president and I am still optimistic that he will develop the game in Africa.

The disagreement came after CAF's announcement of the CAF Champions League final venue. A decision that lacked fair play standards. 
We are not here to apportion blame. We are all Africans and we were not happy with the unpleasant image of our continent due to this decision. We are proud to be Africans and football in Africa deserves a better status”, El Khatib stated.

“We were surprised when we reached the final stages of the CAF Champions League and CAF did not announce the Stadium that will host the final.
As you all know, in Europe, the venue for the final is announced years before the game.

We knew that Senegal and Morocco submitted bids to host the final, but we did not expect that CAF will choose Morocco to host the game.
Last year, the CAF, itself, announced the venue that will host the final at an earlier stage, unlike this year, as the final's venue was announced only three weeks before the game. 
According to the fair play rules, Morocco hosted the final in the previous year and the year before they hosted the CAF Confederation Cup final.

Also, Wydad reached the final this year and they are a Moroccan team, so it is not fair to give them the home advantage in the final. In CAF’s statement on 9-5-2022, CAF announced that Morocco will host the final without mentioning the stadium which the match will be played on. The match was played in Morocco, correct. However, how can it be played on the official stadium of the opponent. Is that fair play? 
On the contrary, in CAF’s statement on 11-5-2022, CAF announced that the final of the CAF Confederation Cup will be played in Nigeria and mentioned the stadium in their announcement. 

Why didn’t CAF announce in their first statement the stadium which will host the CAF Champions League final while mentioning the name of the stadium of the CAF Confederation Cup final?
We are wondering why CAF did not announce Senegal's withdrawal once it happened and waited so much time. Then they announced they only have only one bid from Morocco, where the 2021 final was played. I would like to stress that we do not have any issues with Morocco but our main issue was with CAF's decision. 

On 12 May, CAF issued a statement announcing that South Africa and Nigeria did not fulfill the criteria to host the CAF Champions League final despite announcing one day earlier that Nigeria will host the CAF Confederation Cup final. This decision raises many questions,” the club’s president added.
“We sent an official letter to CAF asking for the final to be played on a neutral venue prior to them announcing the stadium of the final. We also asked from the EFA and the Egyptian Sports Minister to send a letter to CAF requesting that the neutral venue hosts the final.

However, on the 9th of May CAF announced on their official social media accounts that the final will be played in Morocco. CAF explained in their decision that there were only two bids submitted from Morocco and Senegal. Senegal withdrew their bid; therefore, Morocco was selected to host the final. 

Such a decision is unfair and isn’t acceptable in a continent as big as Africa. If the final of the African competitions remain to be played in a one-match system, transparency and justice require that CAF prepare a regulation for the final that ensures justice and equal rights between all parties. We ask CAF to announce the stadiums which will host the finals before the start of the competitions.

CAF should modify the current regulations in order to clarify them to be solid and clear and to avoid any problems.  Also, CAF should consider increasing the awards which is given to the participating clubs in the competitions. 

The current prize for the winner of the CAF Champions League final, the biggest prize, does not cover expenses of participating in the tournament,” El Khatib said. 

“The board rejected the idea of withdrawal because it has a lot of negative consequences on Al Ahly. We will not only lose one title, but we lose the chance to compete for three titles. Also, we will be suspended for two years in addition to the commercial losses. The board's decisions are always taken for the sake of the club, not only for the present times but also for the future.
We sent an official letter to CAF explaining our demands, such as having the half capacity of the stadium for Al Ahly fans. We mentioned that the club will pay for these tickets, but we did not get any response from CAF. I received a friendly phone call asking to hold a video conference on Zoom with CAF’s president, Patrice Motseppe. I informed them that I fully respect Mr. Motseppe; however, CAF needs to respond officially to Al Ahly’s requests because that is not a personal issue but an issue that is related to the club. 

We didn’t receive a response from their side. So, we sent another letter requesting a meeting between Al Ahly’s legal representative and an official representative from CAF to find a solution for the club’s fair demands. However, we also did not receive a response. Four days before the game, we received a letter from CAF which highlighted that each team will have 10,000 tickets and 20,000 tickets are allocated for the general public. We only received 2500 tickets.

The general public here means the neutral football fans but the tickets for the general public were available online and it was only allowed in Morocco so our fans did not have access to book these tickets. Therefore, these 20,000 fans were booked by Wydad's fans.

Africa is a great continent and deserves a better position in the world of football. We know that any development is the CAF's responsibility, but for the sake of African football we would like to give this proposal:

We suggest a return to the two-legged system once again (CAF Champions League - CAF Confederation Cup) because the idea of playing the final in one game did not succeed. 
Europe is different from Africa, because transportation in Africa is more difficult and more expensive than transportation in Europe, and it takes more time.

Also, there is no unified visa in Africa that could allow fans to travel to all the countries. Also, getting a Visa to enter a country in Africa is one of the major problems that the fans face. Also, there is no unified currency in Africa, unlike Europe,” El Khatib noted.

"CAF must take into consideration the rotation of venues that will host the CAF Champions League final to give other countries the chance to host such a big occasion and CAF must provide support to these countries. Also, the countries that hosted the final before shouldn't host the final again at least for five years. 

Also, CAF should implement VAR in every stage of all competitions in Africa. We did not have enough information regarding the venue which will host the final until the media began talking about Senegal and Morocco competing to host the final of the CAF Champions League. 

I contacted Mr. Gamal Allam, the president of the Egyptian Football Association, to ask him if the EFA responded to CAF’s letter regarding hosting the CAF Champions League final. Mr. Allam confirmed that the EFA replied to CAF. 

Then, I contacted Mr. Hany Abo Rida, a member of CAF’s executive council, to make sure that he will provide full support to Egypt’s request of hosting the final. 
However, I was informed by Mr. Abo Rida that Egypt did not submit a bid. I then went back to ask Mr. Allam if that was true or not and he said that the EFA asked CAF to host the final in a neutral venue and did not ask for the final to be played in Egypt.

I asked him for the reasons, but I didn’t receive a solid answer. The Egyptian Football Association is responsible for organizing the CAF Champions League final, according to article (28) of the CAF Champions League regulations, which we received from CAF before the start of the tournament.
The article states that: (The CAF Champions League final will be played on a one-game and it will be held in a country chosen by the CAF).

According to the aforementioned article, the game is hosted by countries not clubs, noting that the Egyptian government always supports hosting international sports events. When we decided to take the case to CAS, I requested a copy of the letters between the CAF and the EFA from the EFA president but and he promised to provide us with the required documents but he did not. These documents were important to support our case. We sent three letters to the EFA but we did not receive any response. 

We informed the minister of youth and sports about the situation and he promised to intervene. After four days, the club's executive director Saad Shalaby met with the EFA's executive director and he told him that they cannot provide Al Ahly with the documents without the approval of the EFA's president", El Khatib said. 

“Nigeria and Senegal submitted bids to host the final without having a team representing the two nations in the final stages of the competition, which proves that the federations have the responsibility of requesting to host the final. This is what happens in Europe as many federations request to host the final without having representatives in the game.
Everyone remembers what happened to Al Ahly in the final of the CAF Champions League in 2018. We faced a lot of difficult circumstances without receiving any support from the Egyptian Football Association.

In the previous FIFA Club World Cup, We asked three times from the EFA to communicate with FIFA and CAF to resolve the issue regarding the clash of dates between the Africa Cup of Nations and the Club World Cup.

At the time, an official from the EFA announced that the issue has been resolved. However, nothing happened and we played the first two games in the Club World Cup without our international players. How can a club submit a bid to host the final without not knowing, whether or not the team will remain in the competition? 

The final has been played in a one-match system for the past three years. I would like the EFA to tell us if any club has previously submitted a bid to host the final. Of course not, because the domestic federations are the only institutions that are responsible for submitting bids to host the final.

We filed another complaint to Dr. Ashraf Sobhy, the minister of Youth and Sports, because we had few days left before the game. Minister Sobhy took urgent action to help us and by the end of the day, we received copies of these letters. 

However, four days had passed, besides that Saturday and Sunday are not working days in Europe. That is the support that we received from the Egyptian Football Association.
The EFA officials stated that Al Ahly did not request hosting the final and that is why they did not submit a bid to host the game. These are false allegations, which contradict the regulations, and shouldn't come from the governing body of football in Egypt", the club's president said.

"The letter that was sent by the Egyptian Football Association to Dr. Ashraf Sobhy, Minister of Youth and Sports, stated that: 
(As part of Egypt's leading role at the African and international levels, the EFA requested to host some of the continental tournaments), and the EFA mentioned in its letter all the competitions related to CAF and did not mention the CAF Champions League final.

This letter confirms that the EFA is the institution responsible for submitting bids. We are asking the ministry of youth and sports to complete their investigations over the lack of transparency and corruption. We want them to bring the truth to the fans and notify all the authorities with the results of the investigations.

Al Ahly will take all the necessary actions to preserve the club's rights after revealing the results of the investigations. The EFA sent a letter to the minister of youth and sports requesting to host five competitions and did not include the biggest competition in Africa, the CAF Champions League. Do they believe that it is not important to host such a big competition?

In their letter to the minister, they did not attach the CAF's letter and we are sure that the minister would have insisted to host the CAF Champions League final if he had the information. The EFA announced that an Egyptian club requested to host the CAF Confederation Cup final. This leads us to an important question. Who informed them about the availability to host the final?
Also, did the EFA send them a letter or called them and we would like to know why they did not do the same with Al Ahly. Everyone knows that if CAF wants to contact a club, they contact it through the football association.

So, when the Egyptian Football Association received the letter from CAF on 19 January, Al Ahly was not informed. The EFA submitted a bid to host the final in 2020 between Al Ahly and Zamalek. Neither of the clubs submitted bids to host the game. We all remember that two teams from Egypt and two teams from Morocco were in the semi-finals.

t was agreed that if the two Egyptian teams made it to the final, Egypt would host the game and it would be played in Morocco if the two Moroccan teams reached the final. A draw was done to determine the venue of the final if a team from Morocco and a team from Egypt reached the final and Egypt won the draw. 

Also, the Moroccan federation submitted the bids to host the final in the last two years, not the Moroccan clubs. What are the reasons that prevented the EFA from hosting the CAF Champions League final, despite receiving a letter from CAF on 19 January and replied after two months, requesting to organize the game at a neutral venue?
Also, why the EFA did not send a copy of the letters between the EFA and CAF for four days", El Khatib added. 

“Our message to Hany Abo Rida is that we only ask for justice for everyone and we all should work to protect the rights of the Egyptian clubs. We would like to congratulate our brothers in Wydad Casablanca on winning the CAF Champions League title and we have much respect and appreciation for the club and all the Moroccan clubs. However, we condemn what happened to our official delegation while entering the venue of the game.

We would like to thank Dr. Ashraf Sobhy, the Minister of Youth and Sports, for his efforts and cooperation to open urgent investigations regarding the aforementioned matters.
My message to Al Ahly fans, we appreciate your feelings after losing the final but we are in the right direction. We have reached the final on five occasions in the last six years. We should provide support to our team and their coaching staff. 

We have to learn from what happened. Some people are not happy with our club's success. We need your support as there are many challenges ahead of us. We are not in a dispute with CAF and we only ask for justice.  We should cooperate together to develop football in Africa", El Khatib concluded.

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