Goal.com picks the best players and teams from around the continent with a focus on the just concluded Caf Champions League and the Confederation Cup
After the end of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign in October, which saw 15 teams join hosts South Africa for the finals set to kick off next January, attentions turned to Caf’s double competitions that climaxed during the month of November, with Egypt’s Al Ahly clinching the 2012 Caf Champions League title and Congolese side AC Leopards walking off with the Confederation Cup.
Goal.com takes a look at the performances of a selection of players in the above competitions and the teams that impressed fans and pundits along the way.
|African Player of the Month | Mohamed Nagy (Gedo)
Club: Al Ahly
Mohamed Nagy, popularly known as Gedo, joined Al Ahly in 2010 from Alexandria-based club Al-Ittihad Al-Sakndary and was yet to really savour any major achievement since then with the Red Devils, who are rated as the most successful club in Africa. Beside the 2010-11 domestic title, Gedo, who also plays for the Egypt national team, suffered his sides’ below par showing in continental club competitions as well as during successive Afcon qualifying campaigns.
Ahly had their long-awaited revival during the 2012 edition of the Caf Champions League, which might have not reached perfection without Gedo’s immense contributions at critical stages of the competition, as his three goals in the two-legged semi-final against Nigeria’s Sunshine Stars helped the Egyptians through to the final.
After failing to claim any reasonable advantage at home in the first leg final against defending champions Esperance Tunis, Ahly once again had their path to an eventual victory smoothed by Gedo, who opened the scoring in the return leg final to complicate the tasks for the hosts, who were finally conquered 3-2 on aggregate, with the 26-year-old attacking midfielder finishing overall third best scorer with five goals.
Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt & Al Ahly)
The 34-year-old Egypt international played a key role in Al Ahly’s steady progress in this year’s Caf Champions League right from the preliminary stage, where he maintained his active presence in the midfield as well as setting up his front men and delivering timely assists that together pushed the group ahead.
He also notched six useful goals on the way to becoming the second top scorer of the competition. His experience and influence also helped the Red Devils assert their formability across the different stages of the race, with a number of coaches from adversary teams calling for a special attention on the player, who now says he’s seriously contemplating his retirement from the sport.
Emmanuel Clottey (Ghana & Berekum Chelsea)
Emmanuel Clottey was one of the most outstanding talents in the 2012 Caf Champions League, even though his then club Berekum Chelsea failed to qualify to the knockout stage after finishing third in Group B with nine points. Scoring 12 goals and becoming the overall top scorer of the competition put the 25-year-old Ghana international striker on the spotlight, attracting interest from Esperance Tunis, who coughed out $1,5 million (€1,153,000) to land the player in Tunis, where he will be plying his trade for the next three years.
Mbwana Samata (Tanzania & TP Mazembe)
Mbwana Samata, 20, was one of the youngest players in the competition and also among the top scorers with a total of six goals from the Corbeaux's successful outing. His pace and work rate greatly added to the Congolese club’s attacking force, which helped them finish second in Group B with 10 points, just one point behind leaders Al Ahly. Samata scored one goal each in his side’s home and away clashes with Al Ahly in the group stage, which ended 3-2 in favour of Mazembe.
|African Team of the Month | Al Ahly
Despite the suspension of the Egyptian Premier League for much of the season following the Port Said tragedy in which some 74 fans perished, Al Ahly were able to maintain their cohesion and competitiveness across the 2012 Caf Champions League campaign thanks to a rigorous training programme spearheaded by coach Hossam El-Badry, meant mainly to preserve the game form of the outfit, with little hope of triumphing in the continental competition.
The Red Devils were held to a goalless draw by minnows Ethiopian Coffee in their opener, raising serious doubts about the form of the star-studded team. Even a 3-0 win in the return leg couldn’t pacify local pundits, most of whom predicted early doom for the record winners. Their mean 3-2 win on aggregate over Stade Malien in the second round buttressed the argument that they were a struggling side.
It was during the group stage that Ahly silenced their detractors by winning three of the six games and drawing two to finish atop Group B with nine points ahead of top teams such as TP Mazembe, Berekum Chelsea and Zamalek. And after edging Nigeria’s Sunshine Stars in the semifinals it became clear the North Africans had eyes set on the title, but after failing at home to prevail over Esperance in the first leg final, it all looked the defending champions would keep the trophy. However, Ahly went on altering predictions by carrying off the return leg on 2-1 to claim their seventh title and breaking their own record of being the only club to have won it six times.
AC Leopards brought much pride to the Republic of Congo after they won the 2012 Caf Confederation Cup and becoming the first club in the central African country to win a continental title. Based in the western province of Congo, Leopards entered the competition by virtue of their second place in the 2011-12 domestic league, and eventually finishing second in Group B with nine points ahead of Stade Malien and Wydad Casablanca. They were able to knock out Sudanese giants Al-Merreikh in the semifinals before defeating Mali’s Djoliba 4-3 on aggregate in the final.
Despite losing the Caf Confederation Cup after being widely tipped over AC Leopards, Djoliba had a worthwhile campaign that could inspire many teams. With more than half of their resources scrapped following the political crisis in Mali and lack of a suitable environment for preparations, the Bamako-based outfit was able to overcome top sides like Club Africain and Al-Hilal to lead Group B with 13 points, and eventually reaching the final which they narrowly lost to Leopards.
Esperance were the team to beat in this year’s Caf Champions League being the title holders, however, they were able to surmount all hurdles, reaching the final and forcing their ultimate adversary Al Ahly to a 1-1 draw in the away fixture played in Egypt. Although they lost at home in the second leg 2-1, the Blood & Gold exhibited power and awe across the campaign and remains a team to be reckoned with on the continent.
Do you agree with Goal.com's African Player and Team of the Month awards for November? Leave your comments below.