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CAF Champions League

It’s 20 years today since Enyimba broke Nigeria’s CAF Champions League jinx

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Enyimba players burst into spontaneous joy  after securing Nigeria’s first win of the contnent’s premier inter clubs competition in Ismaila, Egypt on 12 December 2003.

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

 

How time flies! It is 20 years today since Enyimba became the first Nigerian club to win Africa’s premier inter-clubs competition, the CAF Champions League.

Before their feat on 12 December 2003, 15 Nigerian clubs had failed in the competition that was previously called the African Cup for Champions Clubs.

But at the Ismaila Stadium in Egypt, Enyimba  opened a new chapter in Nigerian football and became the first Nigerian team to claim the African championship after a long 39 year-wait.

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Enyimba’s win was not an easy one as they lost 1-0 through a controversial penalty kick to the home side, Ismaili of Egypt but triumphed 2-1 on aggregate after having won the first leg 2-0 in Aba two weeks earlier.

As if the duck-breaking feat was not enough, Enyimba went ahead two months later to add the CAF Super Cup to their silver wares.

 

Still thirsty for achievement Enyimba again won the Champions League title in 2004 to become the first African side to win back-to-back.

One has to go down far into memory lane to be able to find out the last time a  club had successfully defended the title in Africa’s premier inter-club championship.

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That was some 36 years before Enyimba’s historic title defence against Tunisian side, Etoile du Sahel, the club they have earlier beaten to lift the CAF Super Cup which pitches the two winners of the continent’s top clubs competition in a single tie.

 

Like the season before, Enyimba again won the Super Cup early in the Season 2005 after beating Ghana’s Hearts of Oak 3-0 in Aba.

 

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Enyimba were actually gunning for an unprecedented hat trick in the CAF Champions League before they stumbled in the last duel to the semi-final.

Another bold  effort by Heartland of Owerri in 2009 saw the club losing in the final to TP Mazembe of Congo DR, bringing back memories of similar near-miss of Enugu Rangers in 1975, Shooting Stars in 1984 and 1996 as well as that of Iwuanyanwu (which later transformed to Heartland) in 1988.

 

The Enyimba exploits appear to atone for the numerous misses Nigeria had earlier recorded in the premier clubs’ competition which had almost paled in significance in other lands.

 

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Enyimba players burst into spontaneous joy  after securing Nigeria’s first win of the contnent’s premier inter clubs competition in Ismaila, Egypt on 12 December 2003.

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.

CAF Champions League

CAF Champions League draw offers mixed luck for Nigerian clubs says AFP report

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Nigerian clubs Enugu Rangers and Remo Stars had mixed luck when the draws for the 2025 CAF Champions League qualifying rounds were made in Cairo on Thursday.

Enugu, back in the elite African club competition for the first time since 2017, should be too strong for Zilimadjou from the Comoros in the first round during August.

Assuming they clear that obstacle, Rangers would meet Saint Louis of the Seychelles or Esperanca Sagrada of Angola in September, and be favoured to succeed again and secure a group-stage place.

Every contender aspires to qualify for the 16-club mini-league phase as that is where prize money kicks in with minimum prize money of $700,000 (645,000 euros).

Remo, whose first Champions League appearance ended in the first round last season, must have hoped for an easier start than former title-holders FAR Rabat of Morocco.

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Despite losing Tunisian coach Noureddine Nabi to South African outfit Kaizer Chiefs, FAR look capable of going far in a competition they won 39 years ago.

Remo or FAR will face a Libyan club yet to be named or vastly experienced African campaigners Al Merrikh of Sudan in the second round.

The last Nigerian winners of the Champions League were Enyimba in 2005.

Orlando Pirates, the first South African club to be crowned African champions, were drawn against debutants Disciples of Madagascar.

That seems a winnable tie for the Soweto outfit, who would then tackle African Stars of Namibia or Jwaneng Galaxy of Botswana.

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Galaxy stunned Pirates in the second round last season, winning on penalties in South Africa after both achieved 1-0 victories at home.

The Botswana team then caused an even bigger shock by defeating three-time CAF champions Wydad Casablanca in Morocco before fading and finishing bottom of a group.

Kenyan club Gor Mahia, who won the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup in 1987, will be expected to get past Merreikh Bentiu from South Sudan.

But success in the second round is unlikely as Gor would face record 12-time champions and title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt.

After back-to-back final victories over Wydad Casablanca and Esperance of Tunisia, Ahly are hoping to become the first club to win the Champions League three times in a row.

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The other Egyptian entrants, expensively-assembled Pyramids, could face AZAM of Tanzania in a last-32 tie.

Pyramids must first get past JKU of Zanzibar while AZAM were paired in the opening round with perennial underachievers APR of Rwanda, who have been busy bolstering their squad.

-AFP

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CAF Champions League

New Champions League season kicks off with high-stakes preliminary round matches

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Contenders aiming to succeed Al Ahly as title holders of the CAF Champions League discovered their opponents on Thursday when the draw for the preliminary stage was held at the CAF headquarters in Cairo on Thursday.

With 54 matches scheduled to be played some exciting clashes are expected with the game between ambitious Arta Solar of Djibouti and Somalia’s Dekadaha FC set to draw attention.

Young Africans of Tanzania will face off against Burundi’s Vital’o FC while FC Nouadhibou will have to manage a challenging away match against Guinea’s Milo FC.

Al Ahly, Espérance de Tunis, Mamelodi Sundowns, Atlético Petroleos, Young Africans, and TP Mazembe are exempted from preliminary round.

The winner of the duel between El Merreikh and Gor Mahia FC will face Al Ahly, the titleholder. 

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Espérance of Tunisia will meet the winner of the clash between Arta Solar and Dekadaha FC in the next round. The winner of the encounter between Swallows and Fer Da Beira will clash with Mamelodi Sundowns.

Similarly, the winner of the match between Ngezi Platinium and AS Maniema will compete against Atlético Petroleos. The last exempted team, TP Mazembe, will face the winner of the match between Nyasa Big Bullets and Red Arrows.

The second round of the preliminary phases of the Champions League is scheduled for September 13-15 for the first leg matches and September 20-22 for the return legs.

Preliminary Round First Leg Matches of the Champions League

M1 & 2: El Merreikh (South Sudan) vs. Gor Mahia (Kenya)

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 M3 & 4: Arta Solar (Djibouti) vs. Dekadaha (Somalia)

M5 & 6: SC Villa Jogoo (Uganda) vs. Commercial Bank (Ethiopia)

 M7 & 8: Vital’O FC (Burundi) vs. Young Africans (Tanzania)

M9 & 10: Azam FC (Tanzania) vs. APR FC (Rwanda)

M11 & 12: JKU SC (Tanzania) vs. Pyramids (Egypt)

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M13 & 14: M. Swallows (Eswatini) vs. Fer Da Beira (Mozambique)

M15 & 16: Ngezi Platinum (Zimbabwe) vs. AS Maniema (DR Congo)

M17 & 18: Nyasa Big Bullets (Malawi) vs. Red Arrows FC (Zambia)

M19 & 20: African Stars (Namibia) vs. Jwaneng Galaxy (Botswana)

M21 & 22: Disciples FC (Madagascar) vs. Orlando Pirates (South Africa)

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M23 & 24: US Zilimadjou (Comoros) vs. Rangers FC (Nigeria)

M25 & 26: St Louis (Seychelles) vs. GDSE (Angola)

M27 & 28: AS Douanes (Burkina Faso) vs. Coton Bénin (Benin)

M29 & 30: AS Leopards (Congo) vs. CR Belouizdad (Algeria)

M31 & 32: Victoria UTD (Cameroon) vs. FC Samartex (Ghana)

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M33 & 34: ASGNN (Niger) vs. Raja Casablanca (Morocco)

M35 & 36: AS PSI (Chad) vs. US Monastir (Tunisia)

M37 & 38: Watanga FC (Liberia) vs. MC Alger (Algeria)

M39 & 40: Red Star (Central African Republic) vs. Djoliba de Bamako (Mali)

M41 & 42: CD Mongomo (Equatorial Guinea) vs. Asko de Kara (Togo)

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M43 & 44: Stade d’Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) vs. Teungueth FC (Senegal)

M45 & 46: Milo FC (Guinea) vs. FC Nouadhibou (Mauritania)

M47 & 48: Bo Rangers (Sierra Leone) vs. San Pedro (Côte d’Ivoire)

M49 & 50: Libyan Club 2 vs. Al Hilal (Sudan)

M51 & 52: Libyan Club 1 vs. El Merreikh (Sudan)

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M53 & 54: Remo Stars (Nigeria) vs. AS Far (Morocco)

With the stage set and teams ready, the new season of the  CAF Champions League promises thrilling encounters and intense competition as clubs vie for the ultimate continental glory.

-CAF

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CAF Champions League

Titanic battles ahead of Remo Stars in Champions League

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

It will not be a bed of roses for Remo Stars as they begin another continental campaign next month.

Of the four Nigerian clubs engaged in continental inter-clubs competition, they have the most challenging tasks. Remo Stars are drawn against old adversaries and more experienced Association sportive des Forces armées royales (AS FAR) of Morocco.

AS FAR eliminated Remo Stars, 2-1 on aggregate, in the first round of the CAF Confederation Cup two years ago.

In the new season, Remo Stars will host AS FAR in Ikenne on Sunday August 18. This is the first time the club will play first leg match first since they debuted in continent in 2022. The return leg will be in Rabat on 24 August.

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Should Remo Stars overcome the Moroccans, they will play the winner of the yet to be named Libyan club and Sudan’s  Al Merreikh.

AS FAR, a military outfit, has always been a hard nut for Nigerian teams to crack.

Remo Stars will be on vengeance mission for most big clubs from Nigeria who have been eliminated from continental championship by the soldier footballers from Morocco.

Of the five Nigerian clubs that have had confrontations with AS FAR, only the former Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland) ever prevailed. 

That was in the semi-finals of the old-styled Champions League edition of 1988 when the Nigerian side won 5-3 on penalties after a 4-4 aggregate scores.

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Also in the 2009 Champions League, Iwuanyanwu Nationale ousted the Moroccans after winning 3-1 at home and forcing a 1-1 draw in Rabat in the second round of the competition.

Before then, AS FAR eliminated Stationery Stores at the quarter-finals of the 1968 edition. The game went through three legs

Stores won the first leg 1-0 in Lagos but lost the return match in Rabat 2-1. Away goal rule was not in operation at the time.

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