Terror alert as Etoile, Pirates seek CAF glory
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