Contrasting challenges for former African champions

There are five former CAF Champions League trophy-holders among the 52 clubs involved in the first series of 2018/2019 season matches this Tuesday and Wednesday.

Orlando Pirates of South Africa and ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast begin the two-leg preliminary round with home fixtures.

Ismaily of Egypt, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and Club Africain of Tunisia have more challenging assignments as they travel first.

Five other champions, holders Esperance of Tunisia, TP Mazembe and V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Al Ahly of Egypt and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, received byes.

Here is an assessment on how the five former champions in action this week may fare as they set out in pursuit of the $2.5-million first prize.


It is 49 years since the Egyptian side won a competition then called the African Cup of Champions Clubs and nine seasons since they last appeared in the competition.

They are away to Le Messager de Ngozi, a Burundian outfit debuting in the Champions League but with previous CAF experience having played in the second-tier Confederation Cup.

Burundian football is on an upward curve with the national team poised to reach the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time and Ismaily will do well to avoid a first-leg loss.

Orlando Pirates

Damage limitation will top the agenda of Light Stars when the Seychellois club visits Soweto to face South African Premiership leaders Pirates.

The previous time the Indian Ocean outfit came to South Africa they suffered a six-goal hiding from Wits in the Confederation Cup.

How big a lead Pirates build under Serb coach Milutin Sredojevic appears to be the only issue with Thembinkosi Lorch and Zambian Justin Shonga potential tormentors of Stars.

Mamelodi Sundowns

Sundowns’ 2016 Champions League-winning coach Pitso Mosimane believes the physicality of the Leones Vegetarianos (Vegetarian Lions) from Equatorial Guinea could trouble his team.

“Equatoguinean clubs are usually full of tall boys, who can be particularly dangerous at free-kicks and corners and when the ball is crossed high into the goalmouth,” he said.

While Sundowns have toughened up from constant African exposure, they struggled in Togo last year against rough opponents and will probably be happy to leave Malabo on level terms.

ASEC Mimosas

ASEC, the club where many Ivorians began their careers before moving to Europe, are far less formidable than two decades ago when they lifted the Champions League for the only time.

However, playing at home against modest Mangasport of Gabon gives the Abidjan club an opportunity to create a lead they can defend next week in central Africa.

No Gabonese side has reached the group stage of the Champions League since mini-leagues were introduced in 1997 and that situation is unlikely to change soon.

Club Africain

Club Africain have been among the giants of Tunisian football with Esperance, Etoile Sahel and CS Sfaxien for decades, but CAF success has been limited to the 1991 Champions League.

They set off on another campaign aimed at conquering Africa again with a potentially tricky match at APR of Rwanda, and dodging defeat would be a satisfactory outcome.

APR are vastly experienced African competitors and will be conscious of the need to boost Rwandan football morale after poor Cup of Nations qualifying results.

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

External source

Related stories

The brutal beauty of Morocco’s Soccer Ultras

Raja Casablanca's fan clubs are well organised, politically active and occasionally violent

Politics stole the show in 2019 Afcon

The expanded and new-look Africa Cup of Nations was supposed to be a celebration of football in the cradle of civilisation

African football’s ‘new dawn’ turns to dusk in Ahmad’s hands

The Malagy administrator promised sweeping changes for the good of Africa when he became CAF president, but Ahmad’s rule has had its own controversies

Sundowns shake the foundations

A convincing win over Africa’s premier heavyweight gives them a push to rattle football on the continent

Afcon host Egypt bogged down in domestic football drama

Al-Ahly, Egypt's and Africa's most successful club, have even refused to comply with a packed domestic schedule

Taking on Africa, Sundowns’ style

Uncompromising Brazilians stick to their football guns as they prepare for awkward summit on continent

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

Sudan’s government gambles over fuel-subsidy cuts — and people pay...

Economists question the manner in which the transitional government partially cut fuel subsidies

Traditional healers need new spaces

Proper facilities supported by well-researched cultural principles will go a long way to improving the image and perception of the practice of traditional medicine

Did Botswana execute ‘poachers’ ?

The Botswana Defence Force’s anti-poaching unit has long been accused of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy. Over 20 years the unit has killed 30 Namibians and 22 Zimbabweans

Limpopo big-game farmer accused of constant harassment

A family’s struggle against alleged intimidation and failure to act by the authorities mirrors the daily challenges farm dwellers face

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…