With the 48th edition of Africa’s Premiere club competition in the books, Soccer Laduma hands out its annual awards for the 2012 CAF Champions League.
Best Team: Al Ahly
Maybe not the most convincing, maybe not the most beautiful to watch, maybe not the most defensively competent, but few can argue that the Cairene Giants don’t know how to win games of football. With few looking much beyond a home win for Espérance in the second leg of the final, Ahly once more rose to the occasion, stunning the Tunisians with two goals either side of half time. Inspired by the talismanic Mohammed Aboutreika, and with Gedo leading the line, this Ahly team brought some solace to their beleaguered nation and lived up to their ‘African Club of the Century’ tag.
Best Player: Emmanuel Clottey
What a year it’s been for Berekum Chelsea striker Emmanuel Clottey. Several years ago he was the downtrodden has-been of Ghanaian football, returning to the Glo league after an unhappy handful of sojourns at various outposts across Europe. Arriving at Berekum in an attempt to prompt an upturn in his fortunes, Clottey struck gold, guiding his team to the Ghanaian title – their first – before being unleashed into the Champions League.
Despite Chelsea failing to qualify from a tough group stage – Clottey excelled, and managed to finish the tournament as top scorer with an impressive 12 goals. A hat trick against Zamalek, a brace against Mazembe, and a memorable goal against Ahly in Cairo prompted runners-up Espérance to step in and make him theirs.
Best Fans: TP Mazembe
Les Corbeaux managed to navigate their way through a tricky group thanks in no small part to their terrific home form. The Stade Mazembe in Lubumbashi has been considered one of Africa’s finest venues since its completion in 2011. Be sure to expect a rousing reception from the home fans in this central African cauldron.
Biggest Disappointment: Crowd Disturbance in Sousse
Those who had hoped that the days of fracas and crowd disturbance had departed the African game were left dismayed by scenes in Tunisia as Etoile du Sahel took on domestic rivals Espérance in Group A. With the visitors leading 2-0, Red Devils fans decided they had had enough, and revolted against their team’s performance. The scenes were disgusting, and resulted in the Sahel club’s disqualification from the tournament.
Biggest Absence: South African representation
Gone are the days when the Rainbow Nation contributed two of its teams to Africa’s top continental competition. Nowadays, we are limited to just one, a result of a decreasing coefficient rating. Even Orlando Pirates, this year’s South African representatives, couldn’t make it into the first round, being eliminated in the preliminaries by Recreativo do Libolo. Yes, you read that correctly, a team with only two Angolan titles to their name managed to best South Africa’s four-time champions.
With Pirates once again winning the PSL in 11-12, they are due to represent the nation at the 2013 edition of the Champions League. Beyond Bucs fans, South Africans everywhere should be hoping that Ezikamagebhula can prosper and restore some credence to the nation’s football.
CAF Champions League Awards