Preliminary round, Saturday
AS Kigali [Rwa] vs. Academie Tchite [Bur]-3.30pm
Leopards [Ken] vs. Defence [Eth]
Don Bosco [DRC] vs. Victoria [Uga]
Azam [Tan] vs. Ferroviario da Beira [Moz]
Supersport [SA] vs. Gaborone [Bot]
Malakia [SSD] vs. Cara [Cgo]
THE African football calendar takes a new dimension with all the lenses focused on continental club action following the successful completion of the Orange African Nations Championship (CHAN) in South Africa last month.
This year’s continental club action will be launched this weekend with the preliminary round of matches of both the Orange CAF Champions League and the Orange CAF Confederation Cup.
For the CAF Confederation Cup, Rwanda’s AS Kigali will be making its second continental appearance since 2001 against Burundian giants Academie Tchite in the first leg of the preliminary round.
A total of 42 clubs will feature in the preliminary rounds, including ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast, Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia as well as Nigeria’s Warri Wolves and Bayelsa United.
The Nigerian teams have a bye to the second round. Last year’s winners, CS Sfaxien of Tunisia, have opted for the more prestigious CAF Champions League after they won their country’s league championship.
AS Kigali will be rewarded with a first round clash against Alhly Shandy of Sudan if they beat Academie Tchite.
However, they have a big task at hand considering that their pivotal midfielder Muhammed Mushimiyimana will not be featuring for the Kigali City sponsored club due to a broken arm.
“Mushimiyimana will be missed but striker Bodo Ndikumana and midfielder Hamidou Ndayisaba have returned back to fitness,”
“Academie Tchite is a tricky side. I didn’t manage to watch how they play but I hope to do so in the first fifteen minutes. I am optimistic of a home tie positive performance,”
“If we can get a win at home, we will see what to do in the second leg. We will play an offensive game in bid to head to Bujumbura with a better goal advantage,” added coach Andre Gasambungo.
His opponent Academie Tchite tactician Jimmy Ndizeye said, “We are here for a win though I am sure AS Kigali will give a run for points. I trust my boys to cool off their pressure and hope we get a comfortable result in Kigali before finishing the job in Bujumbura,”
Elsewhere, Supersport will have another shot at international glory this weekend. They face Gaborone United of Botswana in the preliminary round, first leg of the Caf Confederation Cup.
The Pretoria club is participating in the competition for the second straight season. Last time round, they were knocked out in the second round by Egypt’s ENPPI.
The South African club have won the domestic league title three times but are yet to enjoy international success.
Cavin Johnson has replaced the experienced Gavin Hunt as coach and the team are undergoing a reorganisation with the signing of several new players.
They include striker Dino Ndlovu, who is on loan from Israeli club Maccabi Haifa.
Last year, local rivals Orlando Pirates went all the way to the final.
Key matches in this weekend’s preliminaries include Ghana’s Ebusua Dwarfs against ASC Diaraf of Senegal; Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya versus Cercle Olympique from Mali; and CS Don Bosco of DR Congo against Uganda’s Victoria University.
“This will be our debut in international football and we are prepared,” said Victoria University coach Morley Byekwaso, whose team have been training in Nairobi to prepare for the clash.
The return leg matches are slated for a week later, while first-round games will be played from the weekend of February 28.