The draw for the Group stages of the 2017 CAF Champions League was conducted and what a draw it was for CAPS United.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
Makepekepe will not be facing on-fire Al Ahly of Egypt, top of the table Wydad Casablanca of Morocco, or reigning Africa champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
Instead, they will play forgotten former champions Zamalek of Egypt, struggling USM Alger of Algeria and Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya, who, just like the Green Machine, are trying to make a name for themselves in Pan-African football.
While to some this is a tough group, to those who know their football better, this is probably the best group CAPS United could ever have been put in, unlike the one that features eight-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt, Moroccan champions Wydad Casablanca and Cotonsport of Cameroon.
In fact, the Green Machine, would have wanted to be in any of the groups as they are in the group stages not by luck or chance, but on merit after disposing of former African champions in the form of TP Mazembe of the DRC, who at the moment also hold the CAF Confederation Cup title.
Whatever the case is, the Green Machine have nothing to fear of their opponents. Fine, Zamalek have won the CAF Champions League a record five times, but their last triumph came way back in 2002, meaning the current crop of their players have achieved nothing of note.
More importantly is the fact that Zamalek are struggling in the Egyptian league and are in danger of missing out on the 2018 CAF Champions League.
Going into this weekend’s round of fixtures, the Cairo side are third on the table with 46 points, 14 points behind second-placed Misr Elmaqasah, and 23 points behind leaders Al Ahly who are on 67 points.
What more, the Green Machine do not have to worry much about USM Alger. The team should not be confused with Algeria’s most successful club MC Alger, who won the then Africa Cup of Club Champions in 1976.
Although they were formed way back in 1937, USM Alger have only seven Algerian league titles to their belt. Their biggest showing in the CAF Champions League came in 2015 when they reached the final. Just like Zamalek, USM Alger are also struggling back at home. They are in fourth position, 11 points behind leaders Entente Setif who are on 47 points.
USM Alger have lost seven and drawn six of their matches back at home and that is evidence enough that the Algerians are not invincible and can be beaten when they visit the National Sports Stadium on May 24.
Not forgetting probably the weakest team in the Group – Al Ahly Tripoli. The Libyans have never gone beyond the second round in the CAF Champions League. Their best performance in Pan-African football was reaching the group stages of the 2016 CAF Confederation Cup.
Although it is still too early to judge CAPS United on the strength of their performance on the domestic league as they have played only four matches, what is happening in Egypt and Algeria should be a confidence booster for the Green Machine.
Those who booed Makepekepe in the early stages of the CAF Champions League should be thankful that the Green Machine will be bringing right on their doorsteps the top football teams in Africa and the top players based on the continent.
They should now join in the groove, dance and sing to the CAPS United tune and help the Green Machine reach the quarter-finals of the CAF Champions League.
The journey does not look all that difficult.
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