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'Game of the century'

Real loses to Al-Ahly; allegations under investigation

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Posted: Sunday August 05, 2001 3:05 PM
  Hossam Ghali, Zinedine Zidane Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane (right) evades Egypt's Hossam Ghali. AP

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- Al-Ahly fans came to Cairo stadium Saturday hoping their team would avoid a drubbing at the hands of mighty Real Madrid. But what they got instead was a memorable 1-0 win over the eight-time European Cup champions in a friendly game.

A second-half goal from Nigerian midfielder Sunday, who is known only by his last name, was enough to seal a shock victory in the game played to celebrate the two "teams of the century" -- Al-Ahly in Africa and Real Madrid in Europe.

The star-riddled Real Madrid side looked slow and disorganized for most of the game, with the world's most expensive players -- Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo -- hardly getting a touch.

Zidane's only moment of magic came in the 38th minute as a clever backheel set up a Roberto Carlos shot that ricocheted off the post. That was Real's best chance in a lackluster first half in which Al-Ahly foiled Real's few attacks on goal. As the game progressed, Al-Ahly players began to gain confidence and threaten the Real goal.

Khaled Bibo wasted Al-Ahly's best chance of the half when his first-time volley went over the bar in the 39th minute.

Al-Ahly opened the second half with an unexpected bombshell. Five minutes in, forward Alaa Ibrahim picked up the ball on the edge of the area and weaved his way through the Madrid defense.

Ibrahim dribbled past goalkeeper Cesar and laid the ball to Sunday on the edge of the six-meter (yard) area. Sunday coolly controlled the ball before slotting it in the empty net to send the crowd into a frenzy.

Real put everything into attack and came close to equalizing in the 22nd minute when Raul Gonzales' header went centimeters (inches) over the bar. Al-Ahly could have doubled its lead as it caught Madrid on the counterattack, but saw two shots rebound off the post and several opportunities wasted.

The spectacle also included a military brass, fireworks and a ceremonial hand-over of trophies to both teams.

Despite waiting for the evening match for hours under 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), Al-Ahly fans tirelessly waived red team flags and cheered players from both teams.

"This is my ultimate joy. Al-Ahly is a big ... renowned team and has won a lot of championships. It is unquestionably the team of the century," said Salah el-Etrebi, 46, who traveled all the way from Damietta, 156 kilometers (103 miles) northeast of Cairo, for the match.

"Who could have believed that Zidane would be playing in Cairo," said Mohamed el-Nahas, 21.

Among VIP guests was Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son, Al-Saadi. The 27-year-old head of Libya's soccer federation, and a soccer player himself, said he was eager to attend the match, 'which is considered a success for one of the Arab and African teams because it is very difficult to make a deal with a big team such as Real Madrid for a friendly game.'

Al-Ahly paid Real Madrid US$1.5 million to appear and chartered an EgyptAir plane to bring the players here. The team returned home Sunday.

Federation to look into incentive allegations

MADRID -- The Spanish Football Federation president says he will look into allegations made by a former Real Madrid official that the club paid incentives to other teams to win matches against their rivals.

"First we will have to study what has been said very carefully and then if the federation has to act it will," Angel Maria Villar was quoted as saying in the Spanish press on Sunday.

Responding to accusations that US$1.85 million went missing while he was in control of the club's accounts, club treasurer Juan Onieva had made a series of startling allegations about practices at Real in order to explain where the money had gone.

In an open letter published in sports daily Marca last Friday Onieva said the club had paid incentives to other teams to win key matches against the club's rivals.

"The intention of these payments was to defend the interests of Real Madrid, because in the end when incentives are paid to other clubs they are to ensure success for the club," Onieva said.

He also said that the club had deliberately hidden money from gate receipts to try to escape punishment from UEFA for allowing too many fans into the Bernabeu stadium during a Champions League semifinal against Borussia Dortmund in 1998.

Onieva, who took over as treasurer in 1996, was responding to the results of an audit announced last week by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.

Perez said the US$1.85 million had been withdrawn from the club without proper authorization while his predecessor Lorenzo Sanz was in control.


 
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