|In English language media
underrepresented are news and background stories from the arabic speaking
North African football world.
But this is unrelated to
the importance of that area in African football:
It is the most developed
and most successful region in African club football, it has a strong position
inside the Confederation of African Football, and is similarly in African
competitions for National teams.
Tunisia is in the center
of this with the country the designated hosts of the African Nations Cup
2004 and Espérance Tunis repeated bids for the crown of African
Football as well as their attempts to compete with medium size European
clubs to be a stage for big African and even Brazilian talents on their
way to the top of Europe.
Mourad Tayeb, a guest writer,
for 'The Shot' has been so kind to write some background stories and hopefully
will add some more to make us know more about important developments.
There are two stories up
- Towards a
Abdelkader Keita has
been a star in many The-Shot reports from the African Champions League
and last years Cup Winners Cup for the Ivorian club Africa Sports. Now
all three top Tunisian clubs have been involved in a wrangle about him.
That comes in a time where Esperance Tunis' African role becomes increasingly
critically observed in African media.
Mourad Tayeb describes
the situation mid-december 2000...
Tunis before the Champions League final
On the background of
the upcoming Champions League Final, Mourad Tayeb portraits Esperance
and their perspectives
A “KEITAGATE” ?
Keita in CSS, Keita in CA,
KK in ESS...
Those were the headlines
of the local press as from last August.
Announced here and there,
with new opposing rumours of contacts,
negotiations, and huge money
introduced every now and then, the “serial” of
Africa Sport’ s star Abdelkader
KEITA with Tunisian clubs came at last to an end: he finally and officially
opted for Etoile Sportive du Sahel (ESS),
with which he signed a due
license and a four-year professional contract
whose value was not delivered
but must not be as high as it could be
Immediately after ESS, Kader
KEITA, and his father unveiled the agreement, Espérance S.T claimed
its “plain right over the player”, with “official
documents” (a transfer protocol
signed by Africa’s Manager) in the backing.
What is thought the outcome
of the Keita affair turned, in fact, to be only
the start of it.
“Africa Sport, in the name
of its president, gave us a duly signed document
proving their consent to
transfer Kader to Espérance, at the end Champions
League”, Said Mahmoud BABBOU,
Espérance’s Vice Chairman to a press
conference. “This document
served us, the Sports Ministry, as well as the
Central Bank [of Tunisia]
as a proof to transfer the consented $US 300.000
to Africa’s account”, he
Espérance “is no
longer in need of Kader Keita” Mr. Babbou pointed out, “but we will defend
our rights to the end”.
Etoile management retorted
only to stress that, first, it is “the player’s
willingness and deliberate
choice to play for ESS”, and ,second, it was
Etoile that preceded all
other teams, “including some European”, according
to Othmane JENAIEH (Etoile’s
president), in soliciting Keita’s services; and
that was, Jenaieh declared,
“since December 1999”, when Kader Keita
accompanied his team for
the Cup Winners Cup final match against Club
Keita has already started
trainings with his new team and declared that his
situation in Etoile is “ideal
and 100% legal”
before the Final
Today, Saturday, in Tunis,
Ghana's Hearts of Oak meet Espérance Sportive
of Tunisia in the first
leg of the Champions' League final. The return leg
will be played in Accra
on December 17.
Lady luck and a combination
of remarkable factors shot Espérance Sportive of Tunis to their
second successive CAF Champions' League final. But now
they're there, the Tunisian
champions are determined not to let slip - for
the second time - the big
prize of a place in the FIFA Club World Championship in Spain next year.
Going into Saturday's home
leg, before the fanatical supporters of the El
Menzah stadium in Tunis,
Espérance must feel there is a breath of destiny
over their participation
in this year's competition.
If Djoliba of Mali had not
had a goal disallowed in the final minutes of
their second-round tie in
Bamako, when the Tunisians held a 4-3 lead...
If a political crisis in
Abidjan had not forced delay of the crucial Group A
match between Africa Sports
and Mamelodi Sundowns, as a result of which the South Africans arrived
in disarray after a nightmare journey and crashed
If club chairman Slim Chiboub
had not changed the technical staff in August and young Ali Lahmar not
crashed home a late winning goal in Yaoundé against Sable Batie
If any of these things had
not happened, Espérance would not have fought
back from the dead to claim
the superior goal difference that won them a
place in the final ahead
of Sundowns. But living up to a tradition that has
seen north African sides
win the continent's most prestigious club
competition 14 out of the
last 16 times, surrender is not part of the Blood
and Golds' vocabulary.
A year ago, Espérance
went into another Champions' League final, this time
against Raja Casablanca
of Morocco. Holding their opponents 0-0 in the first leg in Casablanca,
they made the mistake of thinking their name was already on the trophy.
But the goals failed to come, and after another barren draw in Tunis it
was Raja, rather than Espérance, who went through on penalties and
flew the African standard at the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship
The credit for their remarkable
recovery goes to two men, Chiboub and
Youssef Zouaoui - the former
for having had the courage to correct his error
by restoring the latter
to his post as coach.
Smarting from the 1999 Champions'
League debacle, Chiboub sacked Zouaoui in June and brought in Anton Piechniczek,
who had had a spell with the club 12 years ago. The move misfired, as the
Pole angered fans by transferring the club's defensive bulwark, Khaled
Badra, to Turkish side Denizlispor and introducing new tactics that left
the side looking unusually vulnerable in national and international games.
Chiboub acted swiftly, bringing
back Zouaoui and thereby restoring the
side's soul and fighting
Zouaoui's strategies, which
include bolstering the defence and giving
emerging players a chance
to express themselves, has paid off handsomely with youngsters Kanzari,
Walid Azaiez, Taoufik Hammami and precocious
20-year-old striker Bilal
Lahmer taking their place in the limelight.
Team morale has been on
a high since they defeated Africa Sports 2-0 in the final group game, as
testified by veteran goalkeeper and Tunisian football institution Chokri
El Ouaer, the team skipper. "Big teams don't die," he
proclaims. "Our fantastic
recovery after a serious of poor performances is
proof. We are back, stronger,
focused and determined to make up for last
Fans and players alike know
that nothing less than a win in the home leg
will give them a chance
when they travel to Accra for the clincher in two
weeks' time. The ideal would
be a two- or three-goal margin, with none
Given the quality of the
Ghanaian strike force, that may be a vain hope. But
whatever the outcome, Espérance
have only one goal in mind: to wipe out last year's bitter memories, and
go on to world glory in Spain.