2018 CAF Champions League Final: All Eyes on Soliman as Al Ahly Battle Esperance

When Egyptian giants Al Ahly enters the pitch for the 2018 CAF Champions League final encounter against North African rivals Esperance of Tunisia, the Egyptian team will be backing on the decent form of their veteran winger Walid Soliman.

Since joining Al Ahly from domestic side ENPPI in 2011, Soliman enjoyed Champions League glory with the club in 2012 and 2013. He scored the decisive goal in the aggregate 3-2 victory over Esperance when both sides clashed in the 2012 final.

Soliman also won three more CAF titles with the club, namely 2 CAF Super Cups (2013 and 2014) and the 2014 CAF Confederation Cup, but it’s this year that saw Soliman rising to “No. 1 star” rank within the Red Devils squad.

After seeing legend Mohamed Abu Treika retiring in 2013, Soliman did his job well, but being overshadowed by the likes of Emad Moteab, Abdullah Elsaid and others. This year saw Moteab also retiring, with Elsaid shifting his career to Saudi Arabia to similar name bearers Al Ahly of Jeddah.

Soliman scored in the 1/16th round against CF Mounana of Gabon, then missed a penalty in the 2-0 defeat at Uganda’s KCCA that saw Ahly deemed to bottom of their mini league stage group. But since French coach Patrica Carteron arrived, the 33 years old winger proved to be the team’s superstar.

A goal against Horoya of Guinea in the quarterfinals and two more in both legs against Algeria’s ES Setif in the semis, in addition to two more assists proved Soliman to be the “Top Gun” within Ahly ranks this term. and he remains the fans favorite as his side prepares to their second successive appearance in the final, hoping to better their runner-ups finish last year.

“I always do my best for the team. I never think of personal achievements, just the welfare of the team concerns me all the time”, said Soliman who is considered one of the team veterans, alongside skipper Hossam Ahsour and right back Ahmed Fathy.

Starting his career as a left full back with Haras El Hodood in 2004, Soliman moved to then second tier side El Gouna in the next season, before moving to Suez based Petrojet in 2006. Proving his quality there, he was always linked to a move to his childhood beloved club Al Ahly, but that was never turned into reality. He has a stint abroad in Saudi Arabia with Al Ahly Jeddah, before moving to ENPPI in 2010, after his former club refused several transfer requests from the Red Devils then.

“I almost had a nervous breakdown. Before a league game against Al Ahly with ENPPI, Ahly supporters called me and chanted my name, I was almost in tears. But I did my best with ENPPI, and at the end of the 2010-11 season, my dream finally came true”, added Soliman who had 27 caps with The Pharaohs.

In August 2011 Soliman joined Al Ahly for a reported 1.2 million US dollars fee then. And he never failed to win the hearts of die hard Ahly fans. In seven seasons with the club, he won 4 Egyptian Premier League titles, 1 Egypt Cup, 4 Egypt Super Cups, plus 5 CAF titles (2 CAF Champions League titles, 1 CAF Confederation Cup and 2 CAF Super Cup trophies).

But this year means a lot more to the “No. 11” shirt holder, as he wishes for another Champions League glory in the infamous red shirt. “I am an Ahly supporter before being a team player. We will do our best to win the trophy as a gift for our beloved fans”, concluded Soliman.

Leave a Comment

The News Chronicle