CAIRO - Several of Africa’s top clubs, from five-time winners Zamalek of Egypt and Nigeria’s Enyimba to Asante Kotoko of Ghana, begin their quest for glory in the continent’s premier club competition this weekend.
Zamalek face AS Douanes of Niger, Enyimba welcome Togolese champions Ange de Notse and Kotoko play Liberia’s Barrack Young Controllers in first-leg preliminary round matches of the CAF Champions League.
Defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt have been given a bye to the first round proper.
Zamalek, for one, will aim for success in this year’s competition to make up lost ground on local rivals Ahly, who have been African champions no fewer than eight times - a record.
Former international Ahmed Hossam, better known as Mido, has been given the task of restoring the Cairo club’s lost glory at the age of just 30. He began his tenure with a 1-0 win over Minya in a league game last week.
‘The White Knights’ have lost star midfielder Shikabala to Sporting Lisbon of Portugal but they have recruited Mauritania international striker Dominique da Silva after he was released by rivals Ahly.
Saturday’s opponents AS Douanes of Niamey won their first Niger league championship last year and are making their continental debut.
The confidence of two-time winners Enyimba has been boosted for their home game against Notse on Sunday by a recent win at an invitational tournament involving Nigeria’s top four clubs.
‘The People’s Elephant’ were the best team of the Super Four round-robin in Abuja, with newly-signed striker Abdulrahman Bashir scoring four goals to win player of the tournament.
The club from the southern city of Aba will be strengthened with the return of striker Ifeanyi Ede and right-back Bright Esieme from the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in South Africa.
Star defender Markson Ojobo said they will go for goals at home to make it easier in Togo.
“I don’t like to predict the results of matches but I believe we will win very well on Sunday so that the return match in Lome will just be for the formalities,” he remarked.
Ghana’s Kotoko, who have been crowned African champions twice, will be expected to go past Liberia’s Barrack Young Controllers at home and finish the job in Monrovia a week later.
Ghana’s other representatives in the competition, Berekum Chelsea, have rescinded a decision to pull out after they received financial assistance from the Ghana Football Association. They will host South Sudan’s Atlabara.
Berekum Chelsea, who reached the group stage of the 2012 Champions League, have grappled with financial problems since their main financier relocated to Canada.
Libya’s Al Ahly Benghazi will host Foullah Edifice of Chad in Tunis on Saturday.
They have strengthened with the recruitment of Nigerian midfielder Moses Orkuma and compatriot Victor Namo, who was top scorer in his homeland last season with 18 goals.
“I’m here to score goals for Al Ahly to justify the huge expectations on me,” said Namo, whose goals ensured Kano Pillars reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Champions League.