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Ahly president El Khatib says Pitso Mosimane deserves 'to be honoured'

Ahly president El Khatib says Pitso Mosimane deserves 'to be honoured'

Al Ahly president Mahmoud El Khatib has publicly backed his club’s head coach Pitso Mosimane after the Red Devils failed to defend their Egyptian Premier League title on Tuesday night, as bitter Cairo rivals Zamalek clinched a 13th title.

Khatib showed appreciation for Ahly’s effort playing catch-up in matches and points, in a season already compressed by the effects of Covid-19 and where the Red Devils ended third in the Fifa Club World Cup and retained their Caf Champions League trophy.

After Ahly’s fatigue apparently caught up with them with a third draw in five matches, 3-3 away against El Gouna, and Zamalek took an unassailable lead by beating El Entag El Harby 2-0 at home, El Khatib said Mosimane deserved to “be honoured”.

“We fully trust coach Pitso Mosimane, [sporting director] Sayed Abdelhafiz and our coaching, medical, administrative staffs. You deserve to be honoured for what you did in the last period and we are working on that,” the president was quoted as saying on Ahly’s Twitter account.

To the players, El Khatib, popularly nicknamed “Captain Bibo”, added: “Our fans fully appreciate your efforts and will always support you no matter what happens. You’ve made them happy a lot and that’s your obligation towards them.

“Raise your heads up, we are proud of each and every one of you. You’ve won the Caf Champions League two consecutive times. You’ve won the bronze medal of the Fifa Club Word Cup.”

The league setback has seen calls from some quarters for Mosimane’s head at Africa’s most successful club. As the first black sub-Saharan African to coach Ahly in the Cairo giants’ 114-year history, he has always been under heavy scrutiny.

Some club legends have backed the 57-year-old ex-Mamelodi Sundowns coach, while others have poured criticism, at times verging on scorn, on him.

Mosimane has mostly enjoyed overwhelming success at Ahly since his shock move there from Downs in late September 2020.

He closed the 2020-21 Egyptian league title wrapped up by predecessor Rene Weiler unbeaten, won the Champions League from the semifinal stage, beating Zamalek in the final, and won the Egyptian Cup from the quarters.

Ahly won the Caf Super Cup in May, and defended the Champions League with their 3-0 final win against Kaizer Chiefs in Morocco on July 17.

Mosimane became the coach with the second most Champions League titles — three, as he also won it in 2016 with Sundowns — and only the fourth in the competition’s 57-year history to win it back-to-back.