The penultimate episode in Goal’s series to celebrate the continent’s finest Caf Champions League winners, we remember the White Knights
Guest Feature | Lotfi Wada
Coming in second in our rankings of Africa’s greatest teams are SC Zamalek, and their sublime side at the turn of the century who – for a time at least – were Africa’s most successful club side in the continent’s premier competition.
SC Zamalek entered the 1996 edition of the African Cup of Champions Clubs with what is known by the club’s fans as the ‘Dream Team’, composed of the likes of Khaled Ghandour, Hazem Emam, Ismail Youssef or Medhat Abdelhadi.
The White Knights fought tooth & nail in the semi-final against CS Sfaxien to punch their ticket for the final through penalties.
Facing Shooting Stars in a rematch of the 1984 grand final, Zamalek took a 2-1 loss from their trip to Ibadan and had scored what was proven to be a crucial away goal courtesy of a late strike from Tarek Mustafa.
One goal was all that separated Zamalek from a fourth African title.
Everything was going in Zamalek’s favour; taking the lead after half an hour of play through Abdelhadi, before Ayman Mansour doubled the White Knights’ lead.
Cruising to the title, Zamalek were given a taste of their own medicine as a late strike from Johnson Ademola sent the game to penalties.
Late in the contest, in a well-oiled strategy, the Egyptians decided to sub starting custodian Hussein El-Sayed for his younger teammate Nader El Sayed ahead of the shootout.
The young keeper would go on to save two penalty kicks to liberate the Red & Whites’ fans.
Like the 1993 final, this audacious substitution paid off and Zamalek were on Africa’s throne for the fourth time in 13 years.
Allowed to enter the Caf Super Cup & Afro-Asian Cup, Zamalek would go on to collect those two new international titles after beating, respectively, countrymen Arab Contractors & Korean giants Pohang Steelers.
Four years later, in the heart of Yaounde’s den, and after a bumpy road to the final, Zamalek stood firm to win the Cup Winners’ Cup with victory over Canon.
Finally, they had re-tasted their favourite glory—African dominance.
2002 would see Zamalek’s return in the Champions League after a four-year hiatus, as a masterful campaign concluded with a final showdown against Raja Casablanca’s finest generation.
After a stalemate in the first leg at the Stade Mohamed V, they returned to the Cairo International Stadium with the wind in their sails as they sought an unmatched fifth Champions League.
Forward Tamer ‘Dunga’ Abdelhamid sparked the contest to light in first-half injury time, when he unleashed a shot which deflected off a Raja player beyond Mustapha Chadili to give Zamalek a crucial advantage.
Despite their probing, Raja failed to get the away goal that they needed to secure the title, and Zamalek had done it…ending their six-year wait for the championship.
It was a victory that wrote them into the history books as the most successful team in the competition’s history—at that time—although they were surpassed by eternal rivals Al-Ahly in the subsequent years.
After winning the Super Cup, Zamalek entered the 2003 Champions League among the favourites, only to be dispatched by Tanzanian giants Simba on penalties in the Second Round.
It remains one of the greatest shocks in the tournament history, with goalkeeper Juma Kaseja delivering an inspired performance that would haunt the White Knights.
In most unlikely fashion, the sun had set on a magical generation.