For Egyptian giants Al Ahly, their fanbase has always been a key element in their century long success. With millions of fans all over the world, Al Ahly undoubtedly is one of the biggest clubs that enjoy an enormous and unconditioned support.
This weekend, Al Ahly are returning to the Total CAF Champions League, hoping for a record extending ninth title in the premier continental club competition. But they will have to do so without their faithful supporters, with health restrictions caused by COVID-19 pandemic forcing all football games to be played behind closed doors.
But for a lifetime Al Ahly fan like Hicham El Feky, nothing will stop him from following his beloved club.
"If the conditions were permitting, I would surely have been in Morocco to be behind the team. But we will have to do it from home this time, and hopefully, we will be back to our place (in the stands) soon", he told CAFOnline.com.
El Feky has been supporting Al Ahly since 1987.
"The story started in the 1987 CAF Champions League final. My father took me to the stadium when Al Ahly played against Sudan's Al Hilal. We won 2-0 on this day and it was the first time I the legendary Mahmoud El Khateeb 'Bibo'. Unfortunately, it was his last game for the club, and he retired a couple of days later. But seeing him and the way he was loved influenced my decision that this is a club to live for," he said.
For the Marketing Director by profession, Al Ahly is much more than a football club.
"It's all about how to live. Playing to win whatever the circumstances and sometimes at the death of the game coupled with the large following whenever and wherever the club plays. All these have made Al Ahly a way of life for me and millions of supporters", El Feky added.
Besides El Khateeb who "inspired my decision to support Ahly", there are a couple of favourite players in the history of the club founded 113 years ago.
"Mohamed Abu Treika and Wael Gomaa are my favorites. I grew up watching as they are my generation. They are not just legendary players, but also supporters of this great club. Their love for the club has touched many hearts and that's why they have a very special place in the history of the club."
El Feky is a regular traveler who follows his beloved club and has had numerous favourite moments in his 33-year story with the Red Devils. However, one moment stands out.
"For many Ahly fans, the 2006 CAF Champions League final is the best moment ever, because we won the game in the dying moments. For me, the 2012 CAF Champions League title is the one I cherish most. It is because earlier in that year, we lost 72 of our friends in the Port Said tragedy. Al Ahly players promised us then that they will do their best to bring a smile on the faces of the families of the bereaved families and the entire supporters. That's why this title remains special."
Having to watch the game from home is a bitter pill to swallow for El Feky, but there is little he can do due to the current global situation.
"This is a tough game like any North African derby. We needed to be there behind our team. But the conditions are not favourable so we will follow from far and near. The game of football is never complete without supporters. Hopefully, life will get back to normal sooner than we expect."