2012 CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: New blood injected in the fray
The eight teams that have qualified for the group stage of the Orange Caf Champions League are known as well as the various groups as the draws took place on Tuesday in Cairo. The surprises of this season’s competition are some unfamiliar names amongst the big boys.
In fact three new clubs will be trying to upset the already established teams at this phase of the competition and AS Chlef are one of the greatest surprises. The Algerians are deserved qualifiers for this stage after ousting Sudanese heavy weight Al Hilal. As Chlef has witnessed a coherent and regular progress over the years. After spending several years in the mid-table of the Algerian national championship, the club rose to the challenge of competing with the best in 2005 first by winning the Algerian cup then finishing runners up of the League in 2005 before being crowned league champions in 2011.However, the Cheliff Lions are not only contented with winning but equally have offer one of the best game styles in the Algerian league. They would have a very difficult mission in the champions league given that they are the only Algerian flag bearer at this stage after the eliminations of ES Sétif and JS M Bejaïa.
Sunshine Stars from Nigeria has equally made a giant step to be amongst the big boys. With limited resources, the club from Agure that was founded only in 1995 took the Nigerian Premier League by storm when they finished runners up in 2011. They later hit the continental stage by finishing in the last four of last year’s Confederation Cup. As from July the “Agagu” boys will be trying to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and compatriots Enyimba, Heartland United, Enugu Rangers or Kano Pillars.
However, Ghana’s Berekum Chelsea United can be credited for making the greatest stride in the competition. The team from the Berekum town, situated in the centre-east of Ghana was founded in 2000 under the name Semereka Football club. The team rapidly webt through all the divisions of Ghanaian football before gaining promotion into the Ghanaian Premier League in 2008. Three years later, they defied the odds by winning the Ghanaian Premier League ahead of household names like Ashanti Kotoko and Hearts of Oaks which gave them direct qualification to the Orange Caf Champions League. For their first participation, they are writing their own history in the completion with a group stage place at the expense of another giant Cotonsport of Garoua who fell 1-2 in their own back yard in Garoua to send the Ghanaians through. The three surprise packages of this year’s Champions League will be hoping to do better than their predecessors in 2011.
For ASO Chlef, it won’t be a difficult challenge. Unless otherwise a difficult draw, the Cheliff lions have a good home record, and are capable of doing better than Mouloudia of Alger who finished fourth in their group in 2011 with just one win. It would eve, be easier for the Ghanaian newcomers, Berekeum because last year, their compatriots Aduana Sports were booted out in the first round by Wydad Athletic of Casablanca. Finally, Sunshine Stars will have the most difficult challenge. To match Enyimba’s feet, the Stars must shine up to the semis; a feet they did last year in in the Confederation Cup….
Road to the Group Stage
ASO Chlef (Alg) –ASFA Yennega (Bkf), 4-1,
Berekum Chelsea (Gha) LISCR (Lib), 3-0, 2-0
Sunshine Stars (Nga), exempted
Round of 32
ASO Chlef (Alg) – Vita Club (DRC), 0-0, 3-2
Berekum Chelsea (Gha) – Raja Casablanca
(Mar) 5-0, 0-3
Sunhisne Stars (Nga) – Recreativo de Libolo
(Ang), 3-0, 1-4
Round of 16
ASO Chlef (Alg) – Al Hilal (Sou), 1-1, 1-1
(4-2 on penalties)
Berekum Chelsea (Gha) – Coton Sport (Cam),
Sunshine Stars (Nga) – Djoliba AC (Mali),
Champions League Honours of the Last Eight
Tunis(Tunisia), defending champions and winners in 1994.
ES Sahel(TunisiA), champions in 2007
Al Ahly (Egypt), champions in 1982,1987,2001,2005,2006 and 2008
Zamalek(Egypt), champions in 1984,1986,1993,1996 and 2002
TP Mazembe(RD Congo),champions in 1967, 1968, 2009 and 2010
ASOChlef(Algeria), first participation
Sunshine Stars(Nigeria), first participation
Berekum Chelsea(Ghana), first participation