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GOR MAHIA CAMPS IN GHANA AHEAD OF CLASH WITH LOBI STARS

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Gor Mahia have set up a two-day training camp in Ghana in readiness for Saturday’s Africa Champions League first round, return leg contest against Nigeria’s Lobi Stars.

According to Kenya’s Daily Mail, while the team is in Ghana, the club chairman Ambrose Rachier has turned to spiritual inspiration as he prays for an aggregate win against the seasoned West African side.

The game will kick off at 4pm local time at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu.

“We are in Ghana out of certain circumstances because the team missed the connecting flight from Accra to Abuja and the next available one is tomorrow (Friday). We have had to look for a good hotel and training ground in Accra,” explained Rachier.

The Kenyan delegation is expected in Abuja on Friday afternoon, before boarding a two-hour chartered flight to Enugu.

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Coach Hassan Oktay and his charges won the first leg match 3-1 in Nairobi last Sunday and can thus afford a draw or even solitary goal loss in Enugu to win the match on aggregate and progress to the group stage of the continent’s premier club competition.

Progressing to the group stage of this competition will attract a Sh58 million cash prize for Gor Mahia, with the tournament winner set to pocket Sh250 million.

“I am confident heading into this match. It will be historic because no Kenyan team has progressed to the group stage since this tournament was rebranded. This task is like crossing the bridge to Canaan and I leave it in the hands of God because we have done everything possible to prepare the boys,” Rachier added.

Oktay will rely on Rwandan hit man Jacques Tuyisenge who scored the opening goal in the reverse fixture in Nairobi to lead the attack. 
Midfielder Ernest Wendo will miss out through injury, but the technical team has the in-form Samuel Ontango, Humphrey Mieno, Philemon Otieno and Cercidy Okello as backup.

Captain Harun Shakava and goalie Boniface Oluoch are also set to play prominent roles.

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Meanwhile Benue State Governor has approved the provision of free buses to convey Lobi Stars Football Club supporters to Enugu to cheer on the hosts.

“The decision of the Governor to mobilise massive support for our team serves to boost their morale so as to enable them to overturn the 3-1 defeat suffered in Kenya,” a statement on the club’s social media pages explained.

The Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu will lead the state delegation to Enugu for the match.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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CAF Champions League

BREAKING: CAF adopts Yoruba name, “Ola” for official match ball!

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Confederation of African Football, CAF, has adopted a Nigerian language name of its official match ball for the interclubs competitions. Ahead of this weekend’s blockbuster line-up that sees Africa’s top clubs battle for  CAF Confederation Cup and CAF Champions League top honours, the confederation and its matchball producers, PUMA have unveiled a new match ball called “OLA.”

 In a press statement, CAF explains that “OLA,” means “wealth,” “honour,” and “respect” in Yoruba, and “rise” and “success” in Arabic. It explained that the name was chosen to symbolize the dynamic and energetic nature of African football.

Embodying the spirit of Africa, Ola’s design is inspired by the continent’s vibrant colours, art, and traditions.

OLA will be used this weekend – starting in Tunis when Espérance Sportive de Tunis hosts Al Ahly of Egypt in the first leg of the  CAF Champions League Final and on Sunday when Zamalek hosts RS Berkane in the second leg of the  CAF Confederation Cup final at the Cairo International Stadium. 

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Al Ahly to face Esperance in African Champions League final

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Ahly, Wydad set for Mundial de Clubes FIFA debut – Sundowns, Esperance eyeing other slots

Defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt will take on perennial rivals Esperance of Tunisia in this year’s African Champions League final after winning their semi-finals on Friday.

Al Ahly, who have won five of the last seven editions and a record 11 in total, overcame TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Cairo and Esperance pulled off a surprise 1-0 win over South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns in Pretoria.

Al Ahly won 3-0 after a goalless draw in the first leg in Lubumbashi for a comfortable aggregate triumph while Esperance’s 20-year-old defender Raed Bouchniba hammered home a clinical shot in the 57th minute to earn the Tunisians a 1-0 away win and 2-0 aggregate victory.

The match was delayed by 70 minutes after a lightning strike in South Africa’s capital knocked out some of the floodlights amid a heavy thunderstorm.

Sundowns won the new African Football League this season and were one of the favourites for the Champions League but fell short of the final for an eighth season in a row.

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Esperance’s 20-year-old goalkeeper Amanallah Memmich produced fine saves as the South African forwards fluffed their lines and the win also ensured a place for Esperance in next year’s Club World Cup in the U.S.

Al Ahly took until the 68th minute to break the deadlock against Mazembe when defender Mohamed Abdel-Moneim scored.

Wessam Abou Ali added a second in the 83rd minute, stretching out his leg to apply a clever finish and Akram Tawfiq confirmed their superiority with a stoppage-time third.

Esperance host the first leg of the final on May 18 with the return in Cairo seven days later.

Esperance won the last of their four Champions League titles in 2019 and have been runners-up four times.

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CAF Champions League narrows to four teams

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CAF Champions League Quarter-Finals journey mapped out

From the original 54 teams from 42 countries that began the race last year, the CAF Champions League has now narrowed to four teams as a whopping 50 have been eliminated.

The four elite clubs in the semi-finals are Al Ahly of Egypt, Esperance Sportive de Tunis of Tunisia, South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns and TP Mazembe of DR Congo.

Title holders and record champions Al Ahly are still on track to defend their title as they beat Simba SC in Cairo to secure their place while four-time winners Esperance Sportive de Tunis were made to labour hard against Asec Mimosas of Cote d’Ivoire.

The reigning African Football League (“AFL”) Champions and 2025/16 winners Mamelodi Sundowns were pushed to the end by Tanzania’s Young Africans in South Africa.

Five-time winners TP Mazembe of DR Congo pulled one of the best performances this weekend with a 2-1 away win over Atletico Petroleos of Luanda after the first leg ended goalless.

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The semis will be played on home and away basis on 19-20 April 2024 (first leg) with the Second Leg scheduled for 26-27 April 2024.

In the first semi-final, Al Ahly (Egypt) will play TP Mazembe (DR Congo) in what promises to be a thrilling encounter.  Esperance Sportive de Tunis will play Mamelodi Sundowns in the second semi-final.

CAF will announce the dates and kick-off dates in due course.

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