Esperance Sportive de Tunis
© AFP

The past
Esperance Sportive de Tunis are one of the most decorated clubs in Tunisian football, having amassed no fewer than 14 league titles, seven Tunisian Cups and two Tunisian Super Cups in the past 20 years alone.

While they may not have enjoyed success on quite the same scale at continental level, their record is certainly not inconsequential. Indeed, Les Sang et Or (Blood and Gold) won the CAF Champions League in 1994 and added an African Super Cup triumph a year later, before lifting the CAF Cup in 1997 and the African Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998.

The North Africans also finished runners-up in the CAF Champions League three times between 1999 and 2010. Their 2010 final will no doubt have been the most painful so far, ending as it did in a 6-1 aggregate defeat at the hands of Congolese outfit TP Mazembe.

The present
The 2010/11 season has been an exceptional one for Esperance. Their recent CAF Champions League final triumph against Wydad Casablanca capped a historic treble, adding to the Tunisian league and cup titles they had already won.

A place in the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011 represents the crowning glory for Nabil Maaloul’s team, which is primarily made up of home-grown players. Among them is captain Oussama Darragi, who is considered one of the brightest young talents in Tunisian football.

The future
“Do the African continent proud.” This is the universal request coming from Tunisian football fans, and they can be sure that former Esperance player and club icon Maaloul will do his utmost to get the very best out of his troops in Japan. “Victory is the most important thing,” said Maaloul after his side’s CAF Champions League triumph. “A final cannot just be played; it has to be won.”

Facts and figures
Former stars
Chokri El Ouaer, Hicham Aboucherouane, Michael Eneramo, Khaled Badra, Tarak Dhiab, Radhi Jaidi, Nabil Maaloul, Tarek Thabet, Ali Zitouni

Key players
Moez Ben Cherifa (goalkeeper), Harrison Afful (defender), Khaled Korbi (midfielder), Oussama Darragi (midfielder), Youssef Mskani (forward), Yannick Ndjeng (forward)

Qualification statistics
The road to the CAF Champions League title was a long one for Esperance, but the statistics suggest they completed the journey without breaking sweat. The Tunisians breezed through the first two rounds, brushing aside ASPAC FC before seeing off Diaraf Dakar. The Sang et Or then finished the group phase unbeaten to top their section ahead of eventual final opponents Wydad Casablanca. They went on to record a 3-0 aggregate victory over Al Hilal in the semi-finals, before beating Wydad 1-0 in the final over two legs.

The numbers game
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- Esperance clearly enjoy playing in front of their home crowd. The Tunisians have achieved the impressive feat of going seven home matches without conceding a single goal.