A few years ago, Ahly fans starting taking signs to the stadium -- back when spectators were actually allowed to attend matches -- professing that "Ahly is Egypt". This slogan was added to the even more ambitious declaration of Ahly as the global "Club of the Century". But if batal el qarn is a laughable proclamation, in many ways Ahly indeed is Egypt.
Ahly is an Egypt that is corrupt, arrogant and classless. It is an Egypt that thrives on domestic trickery, and that is an utter failure when tested outside its controlled local and regional environment. It is an Egypt that churns out tacky and shallow illusions of grandeur. It is an Egypt that is not just. Ahly is an Egypt of quantity and no quality.
Zamalek is Ahly's and Egypt's flip-side. Zamalek is an Egypt of endless potential that is stunted by chaotic leadership. Zamalek is an Egypt of fine art and style, dusted over by brutish and tainted authorities. Zamalek is an Egypt that produces world class stars when liberated from the suffocation of Egypt. Zamalek is an Egypt that refuses to conform to the dictates of the powers-that-be. Zamalek is an Egypt of hope eternal.
If Egypt is to ever be more than the failure that it is, Ahly must fail and Zamalek must rise.