A LEAGUE FULL OF CHAMPIONS
Get ready for a new-look, elite-club championship with loads of money
TITLE-HOLDERS Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa are among eight winners of the CAF Champions League in the 2017 line-up for the leading African club football competition.
The others include record eight-time champions Al Ahly and fellow Egyptian team and five-time title-holders Zamalek. Esperance and Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, TP Mazembe and V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco complete the list.
The contenders for the new US$2.5 million first prize also include six winners of present and past CAF competitions.
AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville, FUS Rabat of Morocco and Stade Malien of Mali have lifted the second-tier CAF Confederation Cup once each.
Al Merrikh of Sudan, Horoya of Guinea and Enugu Rangers of Nigeria are among the clubs who won the African Cup Winners Cup, which was discontinued after the 2003 final.
Another Sudanese side, twotime runners-up Al Hilal, will next year compete in the Champions League a record 30th time, twice more than Ahly.
There are numerous other clubs well used to the challenges and rewards of a competition first staged in 1964 and won by Oryx Douala of Cameroon.
Esperance, Zamalek, Stade Malien and Young Africans of Tanzania will campaign for a 22nd time and Mazembe, Merrikh and Saint George of Ethiopia a 21st time.
At the other end of the scale, Bidvest Wits of South Africa, JS Saoura of Algeria, UMS Loum of Cameroon and Wa All Stars of Ghana are among the debutants.
Other newcomers are Ferroviario Beira of Mozambique, founded 92 years ago in the port city but playing in the elite African club competition for the first time.
The 2017 Champions League marks the start of a new era with the number of qualifiers for the group stage doubling from eight to 16 teams.
A competition that has had two groups of four since 1997, when it got a name change and prize money, will now have four minileagues.
Greatly increased prize money means the 16 teams who progress past the two-round qualifying phase are guaranteed at least US$550 000, even if they finish bottom of a group..
Sundowns pocketed US$1.5 million for beating Zamalek 3-1 on aggregate in the final last month and next year the champions get $2.5 million. The runners-up prize rises 25 percent to $1.25 million and the losing semi-finalists bag $875 000 each. Quarter-finalists take home $650 000 each and third and fourth-place teams in the groups $550 000 each.
A number of teams are sure to be seeded for 2017, including Sundowns and Zamalek, which reduces their fixture list by two games. TWO ENTRANTS Algeria: JS Saoura and USM Alger; Cameroon: Coton Sport and UMS Loum; Congo Brazzaville: AC Leopards and Diables Noirs; Democratic Republic of Congo: TP Mazembe and V Club; Egypt: Al Ahly and Zamalek; Ivory Coast: Sewe Sport and AS Tanda; Mali: Real Bamako and Stade Malien; Morocco: FUS Rabat and Wydad Casablanca; Nigeria: Enugu Rangers and Rivers Utd; South Africa: Mamelodi Sundowns (holders) and Bidvest Wits; Sudan: Al Hilal and Al Merrikh; Tunisia: Etoile Sahel and Esperance ONE ENTRANT Angola: Primeiro Agosto; Botswana: Township Rollers; Burkina Faso: Kadiogo; Burundi: Vital’O; Cape Verde: Mindelense; Chad: Gazelle; Comoros: Ngaya; Djibouti: Telecom; Equatorial Guinea: Sony Ela Nguema; Ethiopia: Saint George; Gabon: Mounana; Gambia: Ports Authority; Ghana: Wa All Stars; Guinea: Horoya; Kenya: Tusker; Lesotho: Lioli; Liberia: Barrack Young Controllers; Mauritania: Tevragh Zeine; Mauritius: Port Louis 2000; Mozambique: Ferroviario Beira; Namibia: United Africa Tigers; Niger: AS FAN; Rwanda: APR; Senegal: Goree; Somalia: Benadir; Swaziland: Royal Leopard; Tanzania: Young Africans; Uganda: Kampala City Council Authority; Zanzibar: Zimamoto TBA (all one entrant) Benin, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Reunion, Sao Tome e Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe CAF Confederation Cup “specialists” CS Sfaxien of Tunisia are among the entrants for the 2017 edition of the second-tier African club football competition.
The team from Mediterranean city Sfax have lifted the trophy a record three times and are the only side to complete a successful defence.
In 2007 they defeated Al Merrikh of Sudan 4-2 away and 1-0 at home to win the competition for the first time.
A year later they emerged victorious again, after a much closer final against fellow Tunisian outfit Etoile Sahel, winning on away goals.
They were expected to complete a Confederation Cup hat-trick in 2010 but lost to FUS Rabat of Morocco lost 3-2 at home and on aggregate.
Nevertheless, they bounced back to reclaim the title in 2013 after one of the most dramatic finals in the 13-year competition. They built a 2-0 first-leg lead at home to star-saturated DRC club TP Mazembe, only to conceded two goals before half-time in the second leg.
The teams remained deadlocked at 2-2 on aggregate until the final minute when Sfaxien snatched an “away” goal, leaving Mazembe the impossible task of scoring twice.
Mazembe finally got their hands on the trophy this year, overwhelming Mouloudia Bejaia of Algeria 4-1 in the return match in Lubumbashi after a 1-1 first-leg stalemate.
The Ravens will not be in the 2017 line-up, however, as they won the DRC title and go into the richer, more prestigious CAF Champions League instead. Were they to lose a finalround qualifier for the group stage, though, they would be demoted to the Confederation Cup, which happened this season.
Sfaxien are among seven teams in the 2017 line-up who have won a CAF competition, including fellow Tunisian side Club Africain, the 1991 African champions.
Other former Champions League title-holders are JS Kabylie and Mouloudia Alger of Algeria, ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast and CARA of Congo Brazzaville.
Kabylie also won the now defunct CAF Cup three times in a row and ASEC the CAF Super Cup once, while Moghreb Fes, the 2011 Confederation Cup winners, complete the list.
Like the Caf Champions League, the Confederation Cup group stage doubles in size next season with four groups of four instead of the previous two.