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CAF Champions League

VAR OPERATIONAL IN AFRICA FOR THE SECOND TIME

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Video assistant referees (VAR) will be used in the CAF Champions League final for the first time on Friday when Al Ahly of Egypt host Esperance of Tunisia in the first leg, SuperSport reports.nnThe system allows off-field referees to assist match officials regarding goals, penalty and straight red card decisions, and mistaken identity when awarding red and yellow cards.nnVAR has been used once before in Africa, for the 2018 CAF Super Cup match between Wydad Casablanca of Morocco and TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo.nnWhile VAR has been both lauded and loathed by footballers and officials, its use at the World Cup in Russia this year was considered “largely successful” by FIFA.nn”We used it for the Super Cup last February without any hitches and are delighted to go a step further,” CAF general secretary Amr Fahmy said.nn”This is another historic moment for African football. CAF is determined to use the latest innovative technologies available.”nnRecord eight-time champions Ahly and twice trophy-holders Esperance have met 16 times at various stages of the Champions League, starting with two goalless 1990 qualifiers.nnThe most controversial refereeing decision came in a 2010 semi-final when Nigerian Michael Eneramo clearly handled when scoring the goal that won the tie for Esperance.nnIt was scant consolation to Ahly that the Ghanaian referee who allowed the goal to stand in Tunisia was banned.nnAhly and Esperance go into the two-leg title decider — the second leg is on November 9 in Tunisia — knowing a great deal about each other having also met in the group stage.nnAfter a 0-0 draw in Egypt, Ahly won the return match 1-0 through a goal from Morocco-born Walid Azaro, one of six he netted in the Champions League this season.nnAnice Badri of Esperance has scored one more with his seventh coming five minutes from time to secure overall victory in a dramatic semi-final against Primeiro Agosto of Angola.nnOther potential match-winners in Alexandria and Rades include Haythem Jouini of Esperance, who has come off the bench to score vital goals.nn‘UNJUSTIFIED CRITICISM’nnWalid Soliman of Ahly is another, firing two of the three goals that took the ‘Cairo Red Devils’ past Entente Setif of Algeria in the semi-finals.nnA key factor in the consistent success of north African clubs in CAF competitions is the number of top quality goalkeepers the region boasts.nnSo, it was unusual that rival coaches Patrice Carteron of Ahly and Mouine Chaabani of Esperance had to defend their shot-stoppers after the semi-finals.nnBoth Mohamed el Shenawy of Ahly and Rami Jeridi of Esperance conceded soft second-leg goals that, fortunately for them, did not prevent their clubs progressing.nn”I trust Mohamed, who often faces unjustified criticism,” said Carteron, a Champions League-winning coach in 2015 with Mazembe.nnThe first French coach of Ahly was more concerned about missed scoring chances in both legs against Setif.nn”Wasted opportunities could have affected the semi-final outcome and I have once again reminded my players how important it is to convert easy chances.”nnWhile Carteron has guided Ahly since June when Hossam el Badry quit after a group stage loss in Uganda, Chaabani has been coach for just one CAF fixture.nnKhaled Ben Yahia was sacked soon after the first leg loss to Primeiro and his assistant promoted to one of the hottest seats in African club football.nn”The Primeiro matches were nerve wracking and I hope my players have learnt a lot of valuable lessons from them,” he said.nn”As we prepare to face a great club like Ahly it is crucial that we believe in ourselves and are prepared to fight until the final whistle in Egypt and Tunisia.”nnApart from a $2.5 million (2.2 million euros) prize, the African champions qualify for the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, which guarantees at least another $1 million.nn nn 

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CAF Champions League

BREAKING: CAF adopts Yoruba name, “Ola” for official match ball!

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Confederation of African Football, CAF, has adopted a Nigerian language name of its official match ball for the interclubs competitions. Ahead of this weekend’s blockbuster line-up that sees Africa’s top clubs battle for  CAF Confederation Cup and CAF Champions League top honours, the confederation and its matchball producers, PUMA have unveiled a new match ball called “OLA.”

 In a press statement, CAF explains that “OLA,” means “wealth,” “honour,” and “respect” in Yoruba, and “rise” and “success” in Arabic. It explained that the name was chosen to symbolize the dynamic and energetic nature of African football.

Embodying the spirit of Africa, Ola’s design is inspired by the continent’s vibrant colours, art, and traditions.

OLA will be used this weekend – starting in Tunis when Espérance Sportive de Tunis hosts Al Ahly of Egypt in the first leg of the  CAF Champions League Final and on Sunday when Zamalek hosts RS Berkane in the second leg of the  CAF Confederation Cup final at the Cairo International Stadium. 

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Al Ahly to face Esperance in African Champions League final

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Ahly, Wydad set for Mundial de Clubes FIFA debut – Sundowns, Esperance eyeing other slots

Defending champions Al Ahly of Egypt will take on perennial rivals Esperance of Tunisia in this year’s African Champions League final after winning their semi-finals on Friday.

Al Ahly, who have won five of the last seven editions and a record 11 in total, overcame TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Cairo and Esperance pulled off a surprise 1-0 win over South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns in Pretoria.

Al Ahly won 3-0 after a goalless draw in the first leg in Lubumbashi for a comfortable aggregate triumph while Esperance’s 20-year-old defender Raed Bouchniba hammered home a clinical shot in the 57th minute to earn the Tunisians a 1-0 away win and 2-0 aggregate victory.

The match was delayed by 70 minutes after a lightning strike in South Africa’s capital knocked out some of the floodlights amid a heavy thunderstorm.

Sundowns won the new African Football League this season and were one of the favourites for the Champions League but fell short of the final for an eighth season in a row.

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Esperance’s 20-year-old goalkeeper Amanallah Memmich produced fine saves as the South African forwards fluffed their lines and the win also ensured a place for Esperance in next year’s Club World Cup in the U.S.

Al Ahly took until the 68th minute to break the deadlock against Mazembe when defender Mohamed Abdel-Moneim scored.

Wessam Abou Ali added a second in the 83rd minute, stretching out his leg to apply a clever finish and Akram Tawfiq confirmed their superiority with a stoppage-time third.

Esperance host the first leg of the final on May 18 with the return in Cairo seven days later.

Esperance won the last of their four Champions League titles in 2019 and have been runners-up four times.

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CAF Champions League narrows to four teams

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CAF Champions League Quarter-Finals journey mapped out

From the original 54 teams from 42 countries that began the race last year, the CAF Champions League has now narrowed to four teams as a whopping 50 have been eliminated.

The four elite clubs in the semi-finals are Al Ahly of Egypt, Esperance Sportive de Tunis of Tunisia, South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns and TP Mazembe of DR Congo.

Title holders and record champions Al Ahly are still on track to defend their title as they beat Simba SC in Cairo to secure their place while four-time winners Esperance Sportive de Tunis were made to labour hard against Asec Mimosas of Cote d’Ivoire.

The reigning African Football League (“AFL”) Champions and 2025/16 winners Mamelodi Sundowns were pushed to the end by Tanzania’s Young Africans in South Africa.

Five-time winners TP Mazembe of DR Congo pulled one of the best performances this weekend with a 2-1 away win over Atletico Petroleos of Luanda after the first leg ended goalless.

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The semis will be played on home and away basis on 19-20 April 2024 (first leg) with the Second Leg scheduled for 26-27 April 2024.

In the first semi-final, Al Ahly (Egypt) will play TP Mazembe (DR Congo) in what promises to be a thrilling encounter.  Esperance Sportive de Tunis will play Mamelodi Sundowns in the second semi-final.

CAF will announce the dates and kick-off dates in due course.

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