Africa's youngest footballing nation, the Comoros Islands, will create another little piece of football history at the weekend when they host a CAF Champions League match for the first time.
The completion of the installation of artificial turf at the country's stadium in Moroni, part of FIFA's 'Win in Africa, with Africa' programme, means that the country can now look forward to staging major matches in the continent's top club competition.
The pitch was, in fact, used in the international arena for the first time in November when the Comoros Islands made their debut in the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers but their clubs have been forced to cede home advantage in the two previous Champions League campaigns because the venue was not ready for competition.
The Comoros Islands, who became FIFA members in 2005, first played in the Champions League in 2006 when Coin Nord de Mitsamiouli competed in just a single tie away in Mauritius, taking the game to extra time before ultimately going down to a narrow defeat.
Last year, AJSM Mutsamudu were handed a 5-1 hiding when they played against Young Africans of Tanzania in a single match at Dar-es-Salaam. However, Coin Nord de Mitsamiouli return this year with the advantage of finally being able to play their tie over two legs, both home and away.
They were beaten 2-0 in the first leg of their first round
match-up with Curepipe Starlight of Mauritius a fortnight ago, but
in front of their home fans will be hopeful of making history.
Certainly, what on paper might have seemed an easy start in the
competition for the Mauritian outfit has become a tough and
unpredictable tussle for a place in the next round, so much so that
Starlight this week travelled to Madagascar to prepare for the
onward journey to Moroni.
The Mauritians' squad includes a new Ghanaian import, Nana Kwasi Kyeremateng, but injuries have left coach Rajen Dorasami nursing a few selection headaches. "There are some difficult choices to make but I am waiting for final confirmation on the status of some injured players from my medical team," said Dorasami, a former coach of Mauritius' national team.
Former winners in action
The Indian Ocean islands host two other Champions League ties this weekend, with St Michel United of the Seychelles up against Stade Tamponnaise of Reunion and Madagascar's Ajesaia hosting Costa do Sol of Mozambique. Stade Tamponnaise have provides a few surprises in past editions of African club competitions, notably beating South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns, but face the possibility of a surprise elimination themselves in the Seychelles, where Stade lead 3-1 from the first leg and have high hopes of advancing.
"Our objective is the third round of the competition," says veteran Giovanny Songoro, who played in the club's debut Champions League campaign in 1995. "There might be some teams we will face who would be superior on paper but the onus is on us to do the best we can and to go as far as we can without any regrets."
Ajesaia, meanwhile, are 2-0 down from the first leg of their tie against Costa do Sol of Mozambique, a club with grand ambitions of their own. "We are going to win, our objective in every game is to win," defender Josimar told reporters as his team departed Maputo.
In total, there are 23 first round, second leg ties to be played at the weekend, with five former Champions League winners involved. These include five-time winners Zamalek of Egypt, Algeria's Entente Setif and Morocco's Royal Armed Forces, all of whom look comfortably placed to progress to the next round next month.
This weekend's CAF Champions League first round, second
First leg result in parenthesis
Entente Setif (Algeria)-ASC SNIM (Mauritania) (5-1)
InterClube (Angola)-Renacimiento (Equatorial Guinea) (2-1)
Primeiro Agosto (Angola)-Stade Malien (Mali) (2-1)
CF Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso)-AS Douanes (Senegal) (0-0)
Coton Sport (Cameroon)-Vital'O (Burundi) (1-0)
Union Douala (Cameroon)-ASKO Kara (Togo) (1-3) *
Sporting Praia (Cape Verde Islands)-Royal Armed Forces (Morocco) (0-3)
Coin Nord Mitsamiouli (Comoros Islands)-Curepipe Starlight (Mauritius) (0-2)
Diables Noirs (Congo)-Enyimba (Nigeria) (1-4)
Zamalek (Egypt)-APR FC (Rwanda) (2-1)
Awassa City (Ethiopia)-Simba SC (Tanzania) (0-3)
AshantiGold (Ghana)-Sahel SC (Niger) (0-1)
Hearts of Oak (Ghana)-FC105 Libreville (Gabon) (0-3)
Africa Sports (Ivory Coast)-Tonnerre FC (Benin) (0-0)
Lesotho Correction Services (Lesotho)-Platinum Stars (South Africa) (0-4)
Ajesaia (Madagascar)-Costa do Sol (Mozambique) (0-2)
Olympique Khouribga (Morocco)-Sporting Bissau (Guinea Bissau) (2-0)
Gombe United (Nigeria)-Daring Club Motema Pembe (DR Congo) (0-2)
St Michel United (Seychelles)-Stade Tamponnaise (Reunion) (1-3)
Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)-Miembeni SC (Zanzibar) (1-0)
Club Africain (Tunisia)-ASC Saloum (Senegal) (2-1)
ZESCO United (Zambia)-Uganda Revenue Authority (Uganda) (2-0)
Dynamos (Zimbabwe)-Royal Leopards (Swaziland) (1-0)
* Match postponed