The date 9 November 2007 is definitely one which will go down in
the annals of Tunisian football. After a titanic battle in the
final, Etoile Sahel won their first ever CAF Champions League
title, defeating legendary Egyptian side Al Ahly 3-1 on the night -
and on aggregate - in the process.
It was a mixture of joy and sheer relief for Etoile, who had fallen at the final hurdle on two previous occasions (against Enyimba in 2004 and in Al Ahly in 2005). "I'll never forget how I felt when we won the Champions League," said defender Saber Ben Frej.
"Moments like this of utter joy and pride are absolutely priceless. We made the whole country happy, not just the town of Sousse."
The emotion of lifting the trophy has been put on the back-burner for now, as ESS have a new goal to focus on; proving that they are worthy African champions at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007. "We're not going to Tokyo for a holiday," said captain Saif Ghezal.
"We want to honour the name of our club as well as Tunisia, our fans and even Africa as a whole. It's my dream to hold aloft that magnificent trophy."
The Tunisians believe that they can go all the way and are preparing for the tournament meticulously. This Wednesday, nearly ten days before their opening game against Mexican side Pachuca, they headed off to Korea Republic for pre-tournament training. There they will be able to get used to the conditions (as well as the eight-hour time difference) and play a friendly against a local team.
"My players have all been really focusing on Japan for the last few days now and on the match against Pachuca. They all reckon that they can beat the Mexicans and set up a tie with the mighty Boca Juniors in the next round. If my team can recreate the standards they set in the Champions League final, I know that we'll be capable of a big result," said Etoile's French coach Bertrand Marchand.
Maybe the best is yet to come from the African champions.