Modest goals for African giants
© AFP

Traditional African powers like Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal are finding it harder to replicate at club level the success that their national teams have enjoyed over the last decade.

With more and more key players based in Europe, and a consistent exodus of top stars to teams outside Africa, home clubs are increasingly bereft of talent and therefore come nowhere close to the prowess of their national team counterparts.

"It has been a long time since a Cameroonian club has won a continental trophy," points out French coach Denis Lavagne, who this year again leads Coton Sport of Cameroon in a bid for CAF Champions League glory.

"Today it is the clubs from the Maghreb (Northern Europe) who dominate the continental competitions. African champions Egypt had 18 players in their winning squad from home-based clubs and a dozen alone from the ranks of Al Ahly. Coton Sport cannot hope to rival those sorts of clubs, never mind win an African trophy."

Instead, says Lavagne, whose team play their CAF Champions League second round first leg against Gombe United of Nigeria at home in Garoua this Sunday, the realistic hope is to make it through to the league phase of the competition: "If we can figure among the eight top teams on the continent that would be a major achievement.

The same sentiments are likely to be shared by Senegalese and Ivorian pairing Africa Sports and ASEC Abidjan. Douanes, having pulled off an away win in the first round to progress, now play defending champions Etoile Sahel of Tunisia with damage limitation arguably their top priority in Saturday's second round first leg at Sousse's Olympic stadium.

ASEC Abidjan only enter the competition in the weekend's second round stage, having been handed a bye in the previous round on the strength of their reaching the last eight in the 2007 edition of the CAF Champions League.

the Abidjan club have been perennial contenders in the league phase, and were winners in 1998, but a policy of consistently selling off their best talent stymies their hopes of greater glory.

The likes of Kolo Toure, Didier Zokora and Aruna Dindane, now all established stars on the world stage, all came though the ASEC ranks and gained valuable CAF Champions League experience before heading onto lucrative careers in England and France. In more recent years, ASEC have sold stalwarts such as Desire Maglorie Kouame and Bakary Sorto, meaning they line up a relatively youthful side again this season when they play at home against AS Kaloum of Guinea on Sunday.

Ivorian exodus
Africa Sports provided the only home-based player in the Ivorian squad at the recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations but goalkeeper Tiasse Kone was not the first choice. He will need to be at his best on Sunday when Africa Sports play away in Cairo against perennial challengers Zamalek.

There are 15 ties in all this weekend, with eight former winners involved. Of those, three are from countries from south of the Sahara, the rest from the Arabic-speaking north.

Five-time winners Al Ahly of Egypt are already through to April's third round after the withdrawal of their Eritrean opponents Al Tahrir. There is more of a business sense about the field now, after the elimination of most of the minnows in the first round. But Sporting Praia of the Cape Verde Islands will seek to proudly fly the flag for the smaller African countries when they host InterClube of Angola on Saturday.

Sporting pulled off a sensational first round upset with the elimination of Royal Armed Forces of Morocco, another former champion, and now hope to extend their run at the expense of the Angolan police team.

CAF Champions League second round
Friday
JS Kabylie (Algeria)-AshantiGold (Ghana)

Saturday

Olympique Khouribga (Morocco)-Entente Setif (Algeria)
Al Hilal (Sudan)-ZESCO United (Zambia)
Sporting Praia (Cape Verde Islands)-InterClube (Angola)
Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)-Curepipe Starlight (Mauritius)
Platinum Stars (South Africa)-US Tamponnaise (Reunion)
Etoile Sahel (Tunisia)-AS Douanes (Senegal)

Sunday

Enyimba (Nigeria)-Simba SC (Tanzania)
ASEC Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire)-AS Kaloum (Guinea)
Zamalek (Egypt)-Africa Sports (Cote d'Ivoire)
Coton Sport (Cameroon)-Gombe United (Nigeria)
Dynamos (Zimbabwe)-Costa do Sol (Mozambique)
ASKO Kara (Togo)-Club Africain (Tunisia)
TP Mazembe Englebert (DR Congo)-FC105 Libreville (Gabon)
Al Ittihad (Libya)-Primeiro Agosto (Angola)

The return legs will be played on the weekend of 4-6 April.