October, 25 2023.
Big Guns Al Ahly, Sundowns Into S/finals & Esperance Battles Mazembe Tonight
Only one of the two second leg, quarterfinal fixtures of the inaugural edition of the African Football League scheduled for today will hold as planned, after the encounter between Nigeria's Enyimba of Aba and Wydad Athletic Casablanca of Morocco at the Mohammed V Stadium was put on pulse for 24 hours, by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) organizers of the league.
Reports and pictures widely circulated in social and traditional mediums in Nigeria, had suggested that the Moroccan authorities had willfully denied to grant Air Peace, the chartered craft conveying a contingent of 40 players, officials and supporters of the Aba People's Elephant to Casablanca for the return fixture.
But contrary to the reports and conspiracy theories, it is now confirmed that it had to do with Enyimba's inability to file the papers for the landing permit, within the requisite 72 hours. As a result, CAF intervened and has graciously decided to postpone the encounter to Thursday, October 26, 2023; with the kick-off set at 7pm.
The reigning Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) champions trail the Moroccan giants, having lost the first leg played at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo 0-1, on Sunday.
In the game that will go on tonight, Tout Puissant Mazambe of the DR Congo will take a 1-0 headstart from their first leg victory against Esperance du Sportiff of Tunisia in Der es Salaam, Tanzania on Saturday, to the second leg to be played in Tunis.
Meanwhile, Egyptian giants, Al-Ahly SC of Cairo, yesterday underlined their worth as reigning African champions, by becoming the first of the eight teams taking part in the AFL to qualify for the semifinal of the dollar spinning competition.
The Cairo Red Devils however had to do it the hard-way as Simba SC of Tanzania gave them a run for their money, and kept the 2-2 score-line from the first leg in Der es Salaam last Friday, until the halftime whistle sounded.
Both sides returned to the pitch of the Cairo International Stadium rejuvenated, but it was the visitors who made headway by opening the scoring through Malian teenager, Sadio Kanouté.
Al Ahly who were at times not looking their usual best, did not take long to respond, and backed by a usually packed stadium, with vociferous fans, they got the equalizer through Mahmoud Kahraba.
It ended all-square at 1-1, and Al-Ahly were the jubilant side, while Simba SC who earned an additional $40,000 promised them by their country's President Samia Suluhu Hassan for any goal scored in this competition; licked their wounds, as Ahly progressed to the last four on away goals rule, after it ended in a 3-3 on goals aggregate.
There opponents in the last four are Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, who overcame a second minute red card to Mothobi Mvala; to also advance to the semifinals of the competition, following a hard-fought goalless draw at the Loftus Vest Field in South Africa, last night, on a 2-0 aggregate victory over Petro Luanda of Angola.
The South African Premier Soccer League perennial Champions won the away leg, played in Luanda on Saturday 2-0, had a leg in the next round, and not even playing virtually all the duration of the match with ten man, deterred them from advancing to the semifinal, where they will rekindle their rivalry with Al Ahly of Egypt.
Each of the four semifinalists are guaranteed a mouthwatering sum of USD 1.7 million, while the four sides to exit the league after the quarterfinals will get USD 700,000 as a reward.
A whopping jackpot of USD 4 million and a giant trophy, laced with the bragging rights of being the first side to win the AFL title, goes to the champions; while the beaten finalists will pocket USD 3 million, as a consolation; www.ckdmedia.ng reports.