COSAFA pride boosted by participation of four regional teams in CAF competition for 2017
Posted: 20 March 2017 Time: 09:09
The 16 teams that have qualified for this year’s expanded CAF Champions’ League group stages have all been confirmed, with holders Mamelodi Sundowns joined by three other clubs from the COSAFA region.
Sundowns had to dig deep at the Phillip Omondi Stadium in Kampala against Ugandan champions KCCA securing their passage courtesy of a late strike by Anthony Laffor which saw them win 3-2 on aggregate.
Also through to the group stages, which this year comes with prize money of at least US$550,000, are Zimbabwean champions CAPS United, who muscled their way past Congolese powerhouse TP Mazembe.
Having gallantly fought to a 1-1 draw in Lubumbashi, CAPS held on for a goalless draw at home on Sunday which handed them a group-stage ticket courtesy of the away goals rule.
Zambian champions Zanaco negotiated their way past Young Africans from neighbouring Tanzania in a similar way to CAPS, playing out a 0-0 draw at home after earning a 1-1 stalemate away a week earlier.
However, the most astonishing story is that of Mozambican champions Ferroviario Beria, who have made a grand entrance into Africa’s premier club cup competition by reaching the group stages at the first try after a penalty shootout victory over Barrack Young Controllers of Liberia.
The tie was level at two-all over the two legs, with both teams scoring twice at home and needing the lottery of spot kicks to decide the winner, with Ferroviario Beria emerging 4-1 victors.
COSAFA will now watch the group stage draw [date yet to be confirmed] with a sense of pride.
The group stage matches will start on May 12 and will through until July 9, with the quarter-finals then kicking off in September.
Ethiopian club Saint George have also found their way to the group stages for the first time since this competition was restructured in 1997 after a shock 3-0 aggregate win over AC Leopards of Congo-Brazzaville.
Also through to the group stages for the first time is Al Ahli Tripoli of Libya.
The other qualified teams are Coton Sport [Cameroon], USM Alger [Algeria], Al Ahly and Zamalek [both Egypt], Wydad Casablanca [Morocco], Al-Hilal and Al-Merrikh [both Sudan], Esperance de Tunis and Etoile du Sahel [both Tunisia] and AS Vita Club from DR Congo.
Meanwhile, the other 16 teams – which includes PSL title chasers Bidvest Wits – that lost in this Champions League round will drop down to the CAF Confederation Cup play-off round starting early next month.
Wits will now join Platinum Stars and SuperSport United in the continent’s second tier club cup competition, whose 16-team group stage will be determined by the play-off round which draws the 16 winners of the Confederations Cup first round ties against the 16 losers of the Champions League first round.