North Africa again dominate group stages of CAF Champions League

Defending champions Esperance

By Duncan Mlanjira 

The preliminaries of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League we’re concluded last week and from the 16 teams that made it for the group stages North Africa dominates by having seven teams.

Two teams each from Tunisia 🇹🇳 (Esperance Tunis and Club Africain), Algeria 🇩🇿 (CS Constantine and JS Saoura), Egypt 🇪🇬 (Ismaily SC and Al Ahly SC) and one from Morocco 🇲🇦 (Wydad AC) make up the seven.

Southern Africa has three representatives — Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns from South Africa 🇿🇦 and FC Platinum from Zimbabwe 🇿🇼.

West Africa has three — Lobi Stars from Nigeria 🇳🇬, ASEC Mimosas from Côte d’Ivoire 🇨🇮 and Horoya AC from Guinea 🇬🇳.

Proud moment for Esperance

Central Africa has two — TP Mazembe and AS Vita Club, both from DR Congo 🇨🇩 while East Africa is being represented by Simba SC of Tanzania 🇹🇿.

Seven of the teams mainly have foreign-based players and most of them are from Ghana. Guinea’s Horoya AC has five Ghanaians — Sebe Baffour, Brefo Mensah, Hudu Yakubu, Godfred Asante and Patrick Razak.

Tanzania’s Somba has three — Nicholas Gyan, James Kotei and Kwasi Asante, TP Mazembe two — Najeeb Abbas and Nana Kwesi while one each are in Egypt’s Ismaily (Richard Baffour) and Morocco’s Club Africain (Derrick Sasraku).

The two South African teams strengthened their sides with non-Africans foreigners — Jose Ali Meza 🇻🇪, Jeremy Brockie from Australia 🇳🇿, Gaston Sirino Rodriguez from Greece 🇺🇾 and Ricardo do Nascimento from Brazil 🇧🇷 for Mamelodi Sundowns while Orlando Pirates has one — Caio Marcelo da Silva from Brazil 🇧🇷.

Horoya AC have the highest number of foreigners (15) from Ghana (5), Burkina Faso (3), Mali (3), Niger (1), Cameroon (1), Nigeria (1) and Senegal (1).

The 2018 CAF Champions League champions are Esperance, who were grouped with Horoya, Orlando Pirates and FC Platinum during the draw held on December 28 for the Group stages that start on January 11.

The Tunisians staged a dramatic second-leg fightback in the final to defeat record eight-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt 4-3 on aggregate last month.

The champions were excused from 2018/2019 qualifying because they were representing Africa at the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where they finished fifth.

The 2017 champions Wydad Casablanca and Mamelodi Sundowns (2016) of South Africa are in Group A with ASEC Mimosas of and Lobi Stars.

According to Cafonline statistics, this will be the third consecutive season in which Wydad and Sundowns clash in the competition with the Moroccans winning two, drawing one and losing one of the previous four matches.

Al Ahly are in Group D with 1973 winners AS Vita Club of DRC with Simba SC and newcomers JS Saoura of Algeria. 

According to Cafonline, after losing the last two Champions League finals, Ahly are desperate for a ninth title and recently changed coaches, replacing Frenchman Patrice Carteron with Uruguayan Martin Lasarte.

TP Mazembe, who are five-time CAF champions, were placed in Group C with Club Africain, debutants Constantine and Ismaily. The Congolese have won three of the last 10 Champions League finals while 1991 champions Club Africain are back in the group phase after a 21-year absence.