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Goalless Cairo derby played in empty 80,000-seat stadium, 200km from capital

Zamalek and Al Ahly have won the Egyptian league title a combined 52 times
Zamalek and Al Ahly have won the Egyptian league title a combined 52 times AFP
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Alexandria (Egypt) (AFP)

The Cairo derby between Egyptian league leaders Zamalek and rivals Al-Ahly on Saturday finished in a goalless draw in a fixture moved 200km away from the capital due to security concerns and less than three months before the country hosts the Africa Cup of Nations.

The game was played in an echoing 80,000-seater Borg El Arab near Alexandria in a season marked by organisational disarray and top-flight clubs sniping at each other and at the Egyptian Football Federation.

Following the turmoil that gripped Egypt after long-time president Hosni Mubarak was unseated in the 2011 revolution, football turned from a national past-time to a lethal flashpoint of violence, especially on the sidelines of matches involving powerhouses Al-Ahly and Zamalek.

Dozens of fans from both clubs have died attending matches since 2012 which led to the introduction of a total ban on attending games which was reinstated four years ago and has been in effect ever since.

After the 'Ultras' of the teams announced they were disbanding last year authorities started to show a degree of willingness to allow a gradual return of fans to the stands but strict security arrangements are still enforced with police providing permits to fans authorised to attend.

The North African football powerhouse is set to stage the continental tournament from June 21 to July 19 for the fifth time after stepping in when Cameroon was deemed not to be ready.

The White Knights remain two points clear of the Red Devils after the stalemate with 11 games of the campaign remaining.

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