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CAF Champions League

Remo Stars, Enyimba strive for a rare Nigeria 100% presence at CAF Inter club second round

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Eyes are on Nigeria’s duo of Enyimba and Remo Stars as both strive to turn around their first leg away slim losses in the opening round of the CAF Champions League this Sunday.

Should both scale through into the next round, it will be the first time in many seasons that Nigeria will have a full attendance of its quartet teams advancing into the penultimate round to the group stages of both the Champions League and Confederation Cup League.

Both Bendel Insurance and Rivers United are already in the next round of Confederation Cup.

In the more challenging Champions League, Remo Stars at home will face Ghana’s Medeama SC in the return leg of Round One after losing 1-0 last Sunday in Cape Coast.

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They will need a two goal margin to advance. Alternatively, should they win by one unreplied goal, they have the lottery of penalty shoot-out to contend with.

But the club is set to avert any possible heartache. Head technical, Tiago Conde noted that only the first half of the fixture had been played and that the second half is what will unfold in Ikenne this Sunday.

The Portuguese is optimistic of Remo Stars scaling into the next round to face Guinea’s Horoya.

Joining him in the optimism is Remo Stars captain, Nduka Junior who pointed at last Sunday’s second half performance of Remo Stars as an indication of what fans should expect this Sunday.

In Aba, the odds greatly weigh in favour Enyimba whose three away goals become very valuable. A 1-0 win sees them through into the next round as they hope to dispatch Libya’s Al Ahli Benghazi.

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Coach Finidi George has maintained a positive outlook ahead of the match which kicks off at the Enyimba Stadium at 3pm Nigerian time.

“We are sad that we lost the first leg game after a great performance from the boys. It could have easily ended in a draw but for that late goal we conceded.

“I must commend the players for putting up a great fight against a very formidable home team. The crowd was also intimidating but our players did not let that affect them.

“Of course, there are areas that we must improve upon, but looking at the game generally, I see more positives than negatives.

Enyimba captain, Olorunleke Ojo has called on fans of the club to come in large numbers to support the club against Al Ahli Benghazi on Sunday, at the Enyimba Stadium.

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Ojo said the team needs the support of fans to spur them to victory against the Libyans, in a game the People’s Elephants must win.

“All we need is support, togetherness and unity. We are not giving up. We are going to win, that is for sure. We are going to qualify. I believe in everyone of us.”

The Super Eagles goalkeeper noted that the team would be in top shape, physically and mentally in order to achieve their aim of making it to the next round of the CAF Champions League.

“Before the next game, we would have corrected all the mistakes and would have rested well. We are going to come out good in the second leg on Sunday.”

Enyimba returns to Aba, where they have won two games on the continent under Finidi George and Ojo is confident that the fans in Aba will replicate the support the Libyan side got in Benghazi.

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“Our fans will do the same. If we can get that support, nothing will stop us. Individually we are going to sit up. All we need is support.”

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

CAF Champions League

CAF Champions League draw offers mixed luck for Nigerian clubs says AFP report

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Nigerian clubs Enugu Rangers and Remo Stars had mixed luck when the draws for the 2025 CAF Champions League qualifying rounds were made in Cairo on Thursday.

Enugu, back in the elite African club competition for the first time since 2017, should be too strong for Zilimadjou from the Comoros in the first round during August.

Assuming they clear that obstacle, Rangers would meet Saint Louis of the Seychelles or Esperanca Sagrada of Angola in September, and be favoured to succeed again and secure a group-stage place.

Every contender aspires to qualify for the 16-club mini-league phase as that is where prize money kicks in with minimum prize money of $700,000 (645,000 euros).

Remo, whose first Champions League appearance ended in the first round last season, must have hoped for an easier start than former title-holders FAR Rabat of Morocco.

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Despite losing Tunisian coach Noureddine Nabi to South African outfit Kaizer Chiefs, FAR look capable of going far in a competition they won 39 years ago.

Remo or FAR will face a Libyan club yet to be named or vastly experienced African campaigners Al Merrikh of Sudan in the second round.

The last Nigerian winners of the Champions League were Enyimba in 2005.

Orlando Pirates, the first South African club to be crowned African champions, were drawn against debutants Disciples of Madagascar.

That seems a winnable tie for the Soweto outfit, who would then tackle African Stars of Namibia or Jwaneng Galaxy of Botswana.

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Galaxy stunned Pirates in the second round last season, winning on penalties in South Africa after both achieved 1-0 victories at home.

The Botswana team then caused an even bigger shock by defeating three-time CAF champions Wydad Casablanca in Morocco before fading and finishing bottom of a group.

Kenyan club Gor Mahia, who won the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup in 1987, will be expected to get past Merreikh Bentiu from South Sudan.

But success in the second round is unlikely as Gor would face record 12-time champions and title-holders Al Ahly of Egypt.

After back-to-back final victories over Wydad Casablanca and Esperance of Tunisia, Ahly are hoping to become the first club to win the Champions League three times in a row.

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The other Egyptian entrants, expensively-assembled Pyramids, could face AZAM of Tanzania in a last-32 tie.

Pyramids must first get past JKU of Zanzibar while AZAM were paired in the opening round with perennial underachievers APR of Rwanda, who have been busy bolstering their squad.

-AFP

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CAF Champions League

New Champions League season kicks off with high-stakes preliminary round matches

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Contenders aiming to succeed Al Ahly as title holders of the CAF Champions League discovered their opponents on Thursday when the draw for the preliminary stage was held at the CAF headquarters in Cairo on Thursday.

With 54 matches scheduled to be played some exciting clashes are expected with the game between ambitious Arta Solar of Djibouti and Somalia’s Dekadaha FC set to draw attention.

Young Africans of Tanzania will face off against Burundi’s Vital’o FC while FC Nouadhibou will have to manage a challenging away match against Guinea’s Milo FC.

Al Ahly, Espérance de Tunis, Mamelodi Sundowns, Atlético Petroleos, Young Africans, and TP Mazembe are exempted from preliminary round.

The winner of the duel between El Merreikh and Gor Mahia FC will face Al Ahly, the titleholder. 

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Espérance of Tunisia will meet the winner of the clash between Arta Solar and Dekadaha FC in the next round. The winner of the encounter between Swallows and Fer Da Beira will clash with Mamelodi Sundowns.

Similarly, the winner of the match between Ngezi Platinium and AS Maniema will compete against Atlético Petroleos. The last exempted team, TP Mazembe, will face the winner of the match between Nyasa Big Bullets and Red Arrows.

The second round of the preliminary phases of the Champions League is scheduled for September 13-15 for the first leg matches and September 20-22 for the return legs.

Preliminary Round First Leg Matches of the Champions League

M1 & 2: El Merreikh (South Sudan) vs. Gor Mahia (Kenya)

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 M3 & 4: Arta Solar (Djibouti) vs. Dekadaha (Somalia)

M5 & 6: SC Villa Jogoo (Uganda) vs. Commercial Bank (Ethiopia)

 M7 & 8: Vital’O FC (Burundi) vs. Young Africans (Tanzania)

M9 & 10: Azam FC (Tanzania) vs. APR FC (Rwanda)

M11 & 12: JKU SC (Tanzania) vs. Pyramids (Egypt)

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M13 & 14: M. Swallows (Eswatini) vs. Fer Da Beira (Mozambique)

M15 & 16: Ngezi Platinum (Zimbabwe) vs. AS Maniema (DR Congo)

M17 & 18: Nyasa Big Bullets (Malawi) vs. Red Arrows FC (Zambia)

M19 & 20: African Stars (Namibia) vs. Jwaneng Galaxy (Botswana)

M21 & 22: Disciples FC (Madagascar) vs. Orlando Pirates (South Africa)

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M23 & 24: US Zilimadjou (Comoros) vs. Rangers FC (Nigeria)

M25 & 26: St Louis (Seychelles) vs. GDSE (Angola)

M27 & 28: AS Douanes (Burkina Faso) vs. Coton Bénin (Benin)

M29 & 30: AS Leopards (Congo) vs. CR Belouizdad (Algeria)

M31 & 32: Victoria UTD (Cameroon) vs. FC Samartex (Ghana)

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M33 & 34: ASGNN (Niger) vs. Raja Casablanca (Morocco)

M35 & 36: AS PSI (Chad) vs. US Monastir (Tunisia)

M37 & 38: Watanga FC (Liberia) vs. MC Alger (Algeria)

M39 & 40: Red Star (Central African Republic) vs. Djoliba de Bamako (Mali)

M41 & 42: CD Mongomo (Equatorial Guinea) vs. Asko de Kara (Togo)

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M43 & 44: Stade d’Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) vs. Teungueth FC (Senegal)

M45 & 46: Milo FC (Guinea) vs. FC Nouadhibou (Mauritania)

M47 & 48: Bo Rangers (Sierra Leone) vs. San Pedro (Côte d’Ivoire)

M49 & 50: Libyan Club 2 vs. Al Hilal (Sudan)

M51 & 52: Libyan Club 1 vs. El Merreikh (Sudan)

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M53 & 54: Remo Stars (Nigeria) vs. AS Far (Morocco)

With the stage set and teams ready, the new season of the  CAF Champions League promises thrilling encounters and intense competition as clubs vie for the ultimate continental glory.

-CAF

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CAF Champions League

Titanic battles ahead of Remo Stars in Champions League

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

It will not be a bed of roses for Remo Stars as they begin another continental campaign next month.

Of the four Nigerian clubs engaged in continental inter-clubs competition, they have the most challenging tasks. Remo Stars are drawn against old adversaries and more experienced Association sportive des Forces armées royales (AS FAR) of Morocco.

AS FAR eliminated Remo Stars, 2-1 on aggregate, in the first round of the CAF Confederation Cup two years ago.

In the new season, Remo Stars will host AS FAR in Ikenne on Sunday August 18. This is the first time the club will play first leg match first since they debuted in continent in 2022. The return leg will be in Rabat on 24 August.

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Should Remo Stars overcome the Moroccans, they will play the winner of the yet to be named Libyan club and Sudan’s  Al Merreikh.

AS FAR, a military outfit, has always been a hard nut for Nigerian teams to crack.

Remo Stars will be on vengeance mission for most big clubs from Nigeria who have been eliminated from continental championship by the soldier footballers from Morocco.

Of the five Nigerian clubs that have had confrontations with AS FAR, only the former Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland) ever prevailed. 

That was in the semi-finals of the old-styled Champions League edition of 1988 when the Nigerian side won 5-3 on penalties after a 4-4 aggregate scores.

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Also in the 2009 Champions League, Iwuanyanwu Nationale ousted the Moroccans after winning 3-1 at home and forcing a 1-1 draw in Rabat in the second round of the competition.

Before then, AS FAR eliminated Stationery Stores at the quarter-finals of the 1968 edition. The game went through three legs

Stores won the first leg 1-0 in Lagos but lost the return match in Rabat 2-1. Away goal rule was not in operation at the time.

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