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Football is a hotbed of rivalries, politics

Egyptian football has long been a hotbed of rivalries, antagonism and politics. The game has an illustrious history with the country’s leading club, Al Ahly, having started life more than a century ago, largely as a symbol against then British rule. The team name even translates as “The National”.

world Updated: Feb 04, 2012 00:18 IST

Egyptian football has long been a hotbed of rivalries, antagonism and politics. The game has an illustrious history with the country’s leading club, Al Ahly, having started life more than a century ago, largely as a symbol against then British rule. The team name even translates as “The National”.

Al Ahly have won the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League six times and securing a record 36 Premier League titles.

Traditionally the team’s support comes from the poor and devout of Cairo’s suburbs but, as the name suggests, they are widely supported throughout Egypt.

Their biggest rivals are Zamalek. Both teams come from Cairo and on derby day the city is painted in two colours: the red of Al Ahly and the white of Zamalek. The latter previously had close links to the monarchy and the ruling British elite. Al Ahly fans chide their rivals by calling them foreigners, but today the identity of Zamalek’s fans is complex, attracting many liberals put off by Al Ahly’s overt nationalism under Hosni Mubarak.

Al Ahly’s bitter rivalry with Port Said’s Al Masri — another club steeped in nationalist history and whose name means The Egyptian — is relatively recent. Although one of Egypt's oldest clubs, Al Masri has adopted something of a Millwall-esque outsider status.