Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Champions League Draw

The draw for the African Champions League took place today in Zurich and holders Al Ahly of Egypt were handed a tough draw. Ahly will start the defense of their Champions League title in the group phase with a home match against Al Hilal of Sudan next month.

Ahly, who are seeking an unprecedented third successive triumph in the continental competition, were drawn on Monday in Group B which also includes former winners Esperance of Tunisia and Ivorian club Asec Mimosas.

What this draw showed the casual fan is the dominance of Arab teams in African club football this year.
7 out of the 8 teams in the quarter-finals are Arab teams.
Sub-Saharan African football doesn't do too well in club competitions. Why is that?

Could it be financing?
That Sub-Saharan clubs sell players to Europe rather than retaining them?

Of course, this theory holds water only for this season, as last year's Champions League had 5 Sub-Saharan teams (ASEC, Enyimba, Hearts of Oak, Asanti Kotoko & Orlando Pirates) at the same stage.
Also, Sub-Saharan national teams consistently do better than the North African ones in the World Cup.

An interesting phenomenon ...

In Group A, Tunisia's Etoile Sahel were designated top seeds and drawn alongside former winners JS Kabylie of Algeria and FAR Rabat of Morocco and Libya's Al Ittihad.

Etoile Sahel won last year's Confederation Cup in a controversial and violence-plagued final against the Moroccan military team but they've never won Africa's top club prize.

The Tunisian side, recently crowned national champions for the first time after seven successive seasons as runners-up, have played in two of the last three Champions League finals, losing in 2004 to Enyimba of Nigeria and in 2005 to Ahly.

The top two finishers in each group advance to the semi-finals in September.

Here are the groups. Should be an exciting tournament.

Group A
FAR Rabat (Morocco)
ES Sahel (Tunisia)
JS Kabylie (Algeria)
Al Ittihad (Libya)

Group B
Al Ahly (Egypt)
ASEC Abidjan (Ivory Coast)
Esperence ST (Tunisia)
Al Hilal (Sudan)

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