Year of ups and downs, winners and losers
It’s been a quite remarkable year of highs and lows for Africa’s finest in club and national team football, writes
NIGERIA rose from the ashes of Africa Cup of Nations failure this year to stake a strong claim for a place at the 2018 World Cup at the expense of more fancied Algeria. There has never been an edition of the premier African club competition quite like the 2016 one, with a team beaten in the qualifying phase going on to lift the trophy.
Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa were final qualifying round losers, going out on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw with V Club from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But it was later discovered that the Kinshasa outfit had used a suspended player in an earlier round and they were kicked out of the competition.
Instead of taking eagerly anticipated South African close-season holidays, Sundowns went back into Africa and won a three-team group after Entente Setif of Algeria were disqualified for crowd violence.
Lucky to lose the first leg of a semi-final only 2-1 against Zesco United in Zambia, the Pretoria club dominated the return match to triumph 2-0 on the night and reach the final.
After two narrow groups wins over five-time former champions Zamalek of Egypt, Sundowns thrashed the Cairo outfit 3-0 in the first leg of the final.
Liberian Anthony Laffor and Tebogo Langerman scored in quick succession before half-time in scorching heat in a packed Atteridgeville stadium and an own-goal sealed the fate of the visitors.
Zamalek won the return match 1-0 in Alexandria thanks to a second-half goal from Nigerian Stanley Ohawuchi, but Sundowns emerged convincing overall winners.
Record seven-time champions Egypt will be back at the Cup of Nations in Gabon during January after failing to qualify for the past three editions.
Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa won the Caf Champions League for the first time in extraordinary circumstances, having been eliminated in the qualifying phase.
Here, the AFRICAN INDEPENDENT presents a competition-by-competition guide to the drama that unfolded at national team and club level this year.