Terror alert as Etoile, Pi­rates seek CAF glory

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

JOHANNESBURG: Ter­ror­ism in Tu­nisia has forced a kick-off time change and a lim­ited crowd for the CAF Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup fi­nal sec­ond leg to­day be­tween Etoile Sa­hel and Or­lando Pi­rates from South Africa. Twelve pres­i­den­tial guards were killed by a sui­cide bomber in Tunis this week, trig­ger­ing a daily eight-hour cur­few in the cap­i­tal and a na­tion­wide state of emer­gency. Etoile and Pi­rates, who drew 1-1 in Soweto last Satur­day, meet at the Stade Olympique in Mediter­ranean re­sort Sousse, close to where 38 for­eign tourists died in a beach mas­sacre last June.

Ji­hadist terror group Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the Tunis and Sousse at­tacks. Orig­i­nally sched­uled for 1930 lo­cal time (1830 GMT), the last match of the CAF club sea­son has been brought for­ward to 1500 lo­cal time (1400 GMT). And the ini­tial crowd limit of 20,000 in the 25,000-seat sta­dium has been halved to 10,000 on the or­ders of Tu­nisian au­thor­i­ties. South African am­bas­sador to Tu­nisia Harold Hoy­ana said Pi­rates of­fi­cials had been in­formed of se­cu­rity ar­range­ments and were sat­is­fied. “The Tu­nisian au­thor­i­ties have put in place strin­gent se­cu­rity mea­sures to pro­tect their cit­i­zens and for­eign visi­tors,” Hoy­ana told South African re­porters.

Pi­rates are fa­mil­iar with Tu­nisia, beat­ing CS Sfax­ien 1-0 in a Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup group game in Sfax, 135 kilo­me­ters south of Sousse, four months ago. Hav­ing snatched a late equaliser in South Africa through cen­tre-back Am­mar Je­mal, deputis­ing as cap­tain for in­jured goal­keeper Ay­men Mathlouthi, Etoile are favoured to claim a ninth CAF ti­tle. They are the only club to lift all five CAF tro­phies, win­ning the Cham­pi­ons League and Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup once and the Su­per Cup, African Cup Win­ners Cup and CAF Cup twice. What the Tu­nisian Red Devils have not achieved is a vic­tory in two home and three away matches in Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup fi­nals.

‘No nasty sur­prises’

Etoile beat FAR Ra­bat of Morocco on away goals af­ter two draws in 2006 and lost on away goals to Sfax­ien two years later af­ter two more draws. They could achieve an­other vic­tory-less fi­nal tri­umph this week­end as a 00 draw would give them the tro­phy on away goals and a 1-1 draw would present a chance to win via a penalty shootout. Should Etoile suc­ceed, it will be the fifth Tu­nisian suc­cess in 12 fi­nals of the African equiv­a­lent of the Europa League with Sfax­ien hav­ing tri­umphed a record three times.

Both clubs re­main con­fi­dent they can end long waits for an African ti­tle with the last for Etoile com­ing in the 2008 Su­per Cup. Pi­rates, hop­ing to end a 14-year African tro­phy drought by South African clubs, won the 1995 African Cup of Cham­pi­ons Clubs (now CAF Cham­pi­ons League) and the 1996 Su­per Cup. Etoile coach Faouzi Ben­zarti, a grey­ing 65-year-old seek­ing a third CAF club ti­tle, told Tu­nisian re­porters that “the sec­ond leg is the real fi­nal. “We must be compact, vig­i­lant and fo­cused to en­sure there are no nasty sur­prises,” said the widely trav­elled han­dler now in his fifth spell at the Sousse club. “Pi­rates are a good at­tack­ing side, but we closed them down ef­fec­tively on the wings in the first leg. The way they play has not really changed dur­ing their Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup cam­paign.”— AFP

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