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Gaza Fixer: A chronicle of survival
18 Oct 2013 22:31 GMT | Sport, Football, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana
Egypt's top club Al Ahly have the chance to salvage some footballing pride this weekend after the national side's 6-1 thrashing in a World Cup qualifier.
The effect of the defeat to Ghana on Tuesday weighs heavy on the Cairo club, which contributed 11 players to the 26-man national squad, as it tries to win a place in the African Champions League final.
Al Ahly host Coton Sport of Cameroon in the second leg of their semi-final on Sunday, seeking to extend their dominance in the competition.
The team, and the internationals who went to Kumasi for the crushing defeat in the World Cup play-off, now have to pick up the pieces for a tricky tie in the Red Sea resort of El Gouna after the first leg ended 1-1 in Garoua two weeks ago.
They will play behind closed doors because of a ban on rowdy fans, will be without coach Mohamed Youssef, who has a touchline ban after a red card in the first leg.
The club is also worried about the fitness of key players including goalkeeper Sherif Ekrami, who limped off with a knee injury in Ghana on Tuesday, and midfielder Hossa Ashour, also hurt in the game.
To add to the sense of unease, Ahly's top play Mohamed Aboutrika announced on Thursday that he would be retire at the end of the year.
The midfielder has been a talismanic presence for the Cairo giants who have dominated African club football over the last decade.
Captain Wael Gomaa, who scored an own goal in Ghana on Tuesday, attempted to rally the players and fans by saying in an interview with the club website: "The Al Ahly players are experienced enough to forget the match againstGhana."
If Ahly succeed on Sunday they will likely set up a repeat of last year's final against Esperance of Tunisia, who host Orlando Pirates of South Africa in their second leg on Saturday after a goalless draw in the first leg.
Egypt's chances of World Cup qualification are slim after Asamoah Gyan scores twice during dominant display.
A seventh African Champions League crown is the sweetest of all for the Egyptian Club, following Port Said tragedy.
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