A heavily depleted Al Ahly squad visits Mali this weekend wanting to build on a great start to the CAF Confederation Cup group phase in defence of the title. The Egyptians, winners of a record 19 African titles, play Stade Malien two weeks after thumping Tunisians Esperance 3-0 in the main attraction of that round of games. Stade lost 1-0 the same weekend at Tunisians Etoile Sahel, had a player red-carded to boot, and would have suffered a heavier loss but for inspired goalkeeping from Djigui Diarra. However, Ahly have never won an away group game in the second-tier competition and the absence of seven stars is a major blow to coach Fathy Mabrouk. Suspensions rule out midfielders Hossam Ashour and Mohamed Hany and winger Walid Soliman. Midfielders Mohamed Rezk and Islam Roshdi are barred from travelling outside Egypt because they are due to report for military service. And injuries have sidelined winger Karim Bambou and Nigeria-born striker Peter Ebimobowei. […]
Football, for all its ability to unite and inspire, continues to possess a terrifyingly dark underbelly - prone to violence and tainting - that threatens to dissolve everything the sport should stand for and often takes with it, the lives of hundreds of fans.