Thursday Aug 08, 2019. 07:00
By Mark Gleeson
While Esperance and Wydad Casablanca still wait to hear who is winner of the last edition of the African Champions League, the campaign to find the 2020 winner gets underway on Friday.
Last season’s finalists are still embroiled in a boardroom dispute over the identity of the 2019 winner and are not involved in the first round after being handed a bye into the next round.
So, too TP Mazembe Englebert of the Democratic Republic of Congo but for the rest a stellar cast of competitors, including 11 former champions, begin their bid for glory this weekend.
Record winners Al Ahly of Egypt have been handed two ‘home’ matches against Atlabara of South Sudan, where a lack of facilities means they have to forfeit home advantage.
Sunday’s match at the Borg El Arab stadium in Alexandria is actually Atlabara’s home game but they have asked the Egyptians to host the game there and then they will return in a fortnight and play again at the same venue.
It will be the same for Zamalek, when they take on Somali club Dekadaha at the Petrojet Stadium in Cairo onSunfaya n then hst them again in two weeks.
It is the first time in 30 years that a Somali clubs participates in African club competition.
JS Kabylie of Algeria, who have won Africa’s top club prize twice, have a potentially difficult start against Al Merreikh of Sudan in Bejaia on Friday but French-born coach Hubert Velud said last week he was already confident he knew 90 percent of the composition of his team, even though they are yet to begin domestic competition.
USM Alger must do without four key players, who were not registered in time, for their meeting in Niamey with Niger’s champions AS SONIDEP.
The absence of Hichem Belkaroui, Karim Benkhalifa, Mohamed Benkhemassa and Adem Redjhimi presents a problem for coach Bilel Dziri, who will be ken to minimize their absence and play a conservative game.
South Africa’s Orlando Pirates will be seeking to redress the disappointment of going out in last season’s group stage and have an improved squad to take to Zambian rookies Green Eagles in Lusaka on Saturday.
Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevich is promising that after two seasons without bagging any silverware, he will now start to deliver: “People could speak this or that, we will just say visible trophies are around the corner. Invisible trophies that we’ve succeeded in is that we lifted our criteria and standards of our team,” he said.
Three-time winners Raja Casablanca travellde to the Gambia on Tuesday where they begin their title bid under 49-year-old Frenchman Patrice Carteron, who previously won the Champions League with TP Mazembe but was fired by Al Ahly of Egypt when they lost in the 2018 final to Esperance.
It has been almost four decades since Asante Kotoko last won the prize and they begin away at Nigeria’s Kano Pillars on Saturday.
“I’m very excited because this is what we all lived for, this is the real thing and we are going to give our all and hopefully it will be enough to bring home good result,” said Kotoko coach Kjetil Zachariassen. The Norwegian has only been in the job for a month.
Nigeria’s other representatives Enyimba begin away at Rahimo of Burkina Faso, who are based in Bobo-Dioulasso and won their first national title in May. In fact, they completed the double by beating AS Sonabel 3-2 in the cup final.
Friday 9 August:
JS Kabylie (Algeria) v Al Merreikh (Sudan)
AS SONIDEP (Niger) v USM Alger (Algeria)
Saturday 10 August:
Green Eagles (Zambia) v Orlando Pirates (South Africa)
KMKM (Zanzibar) v Primeiro Agosto (Angola)
Brikama United (Gambia) v Raja Casablanca (Morocco)
Kano Pillars (Nigeria) v Asante Kotoko (Ghana)
African Stars (Namibia) v Kampala Capital City Authority (Uganda)
Young Africans (Tanzania) v Township Rollers (Botswana)
Green Mamba (Eswatini) v ZESCO United (Zambia)
UD Songo (Mozambique) v Simba (Tanzania)
Cano Sport (Equatorial Guinea) v Mekelle 70 Enderta (Ethiopia)
Rahimo (Burkina Faso) v Enyimba (Nigeria)
Stade Malien (Mali) v Horoya (Guinea)
Big Bullets (Malawi) v FC Platinum (Zimbabwe)
Sunday 11 August:
AS Tempête Mocaf (Central African Republic) v Al-Nasr (Libya)
Buffles Borgou (Benin) v ASC Kara (Togo)
UMS Loum (Cameroon) v AS Vita Club (DR Congo)
Rayon Sports (Rwanda) v Al Hilal (Sudan)
Aigle Noir (Burundi) v Gor Mahia (Kenya)
Atlabara (South Sudan) v Al-Ahly (Egypt)
Dekedaha (Somalia) v Zamalek (Egypt)
LPRC Oilers (Liberia) v Génération Foot (Senegal)
Hafia (Guinea) v Étoile Sahel (Tunisia)
Matlama (Lesotho) v Petro Atletico (Angola)
Fomboni (Comoros) v Côte d’Or (Seychelles)
AS Otôho d’Oyo (Congo) v Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)
SO de l’Armée (Ivory Coast) v FC Nouadhibou (Mauritania)
Cercle Mbéri Sportif (Gabon) v Elect-Sport (Chad)
Fosa Juniors (Madagascar) v Pamplemousse (Mauritius)
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