Spanish coach Juan Carlos Garrido eyes CAF club history
Juan Carlos Garrido hopes to create history Saturday by becoming the first Spanish coach of an African Football Confederation (CAF) title-winning club.
Madrid: Juan Carlos Garrido hopes to create history Saturday by becoming the first Spanish coach of an African Football Confederation (CAF) title-winning club.
The 45-year-old former Real Betis and Villarreal manager guides Egyptians Al Ahly, who trail Ivorians Sewe Sport 2-1 after the first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup final.
Ahly have home advantage in the return match and a 1-0 win will give the Cairo Red Devils overall victory on the away-goal rule and a $660,000 prize in the second-tier African competition.
A solitary goal separated Ahly and visiting Sewe in the group stage last July with Walid Soliman converting an early penalty.
The narrow win marked the CAF debut of Garrido, the third coach Ahly have used in 11 Confederation Cup games.
Mohamed Youssef quit after a last-gasp play-off victory over Moroccans Difaa El Jadida and caretaker Fathy Mabrouk took charge for three group matches.
Garrido arrived and three wins, one draw and two losses later, Ahly are on the verge of a record-extending 19th CAF title against rivals playing their first African final.
The Red Devils have won the African Champions Cup/CAF Champions League eight times, the CAF Super Cup six times and the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup four times.
But neither Ahly nor any other Egyptian outfit has claimed the Confederation Cup -- the African equivalent of the Europa League.
Garrido hopes to change that before a Cairo Stadium crowd that will probably be restricted to 20,000 because of ongoing post-Arab Spring security concerns.
"It would be a great honour for me to win a CAF competition in my first year at the club," Garrido told reporters.
"I came to Cairo to win trophies and the Confederation Cup is an important one as no Egyptian club has lifted it."The chance to create more history at this great club is a wonderful motivation for the players and the coaches."
Ahly have already surpassed the previous best showing by an Egyptian side -- ENPPI making a semi-final exit five seasons ago.
Garrido has been hampered by injuries, transfers and suspensions during his six Confederation Cup matches.
Star goalkeeper Sherif Ekramy and leading scorer Amr Gamal missed the final, and first-leg scorer Mahmoud `Trezeguet` Hassan is suspended for the return match.
He was yellow-carded by the Gabonese referee in Abidjan last weekend for time wasting at a throw-in and the decision infuriated Garrido.
"The match official intentionally cautioned `Trezeguet` to prevent him taking part in the second leg," alleged the Spaniard.
A disallowed goal by midfielder and captain Hossam Ghaly also angered the Spaniard, who claiming it was "legitimate".
But Ahly were fortunate to escape with only a one-goal loss as they played second fiddle for long periods against Sewe, who want to become the first Ivorian winners of a CAF club competition in 15 years.
Ace striker Roger Assale,who joins Democratic Republic of Congo and African giants TP Mazembe after the final, gave an outstanding display capped with a late match-winner.
"Mazembe is not among my thoughts now -- I am focusing solely on winning the Confederation Cup with Sewe," he assured reporters.
"Defeating Ahly in the final will be a farewell gift to my team-mates, my coaches, the officials and all those wonderful Sewe supporters."
Coach Rigo Gervais shares the optimism of 21-year-old Assale, whose five goals have played a key role in Sewe reaching the final.
"I was hoping for a bigger first-leg lead, but our destiny is in our hands," said a coach little known outside his West African homeland.
"Playing away holds no fears for us -- remember we defeated Bayelsa in Nigeria and Etoile Sahel in Tunisia and held Leopards in Congo."
Ahly and Sewe started this year in the far richer, more prestigious Champions League only to drop to the Confederation Cup after final qualifying round losses.
Whoever succeeds will be the first Champions League `drop-outs` to raise the trophy since Etoile Sahel eight years ago.