Five former African champions crashed out in the second round of the 2009CAF Champions League at the weekend, but the biggest embarrassment belonged to 2010 FIFA World Cup™ hosts South Africa. Both of the country's representatives were eliminated in surprise setbacks for a nation still short on confidence ahead of its hosting of world sport's biggest event in just over 400 days.
With one of the biggest leagues on the continent in terms of sponsorship and television coverage, and paying among the best salaries, the two clubs from South Africa's Premier Soccer League had high hopes for success in this year's continental club extravaganza.
But champions SuperSport United and last season's runners-up Ajax Cape Town failed to even make it past the second round and, for another year, South African sides must sit and watch from the sidelines as others contest for the crown. SuperSport United contrived to do everything but score in their clash with Kampala City Council before a calamitous blunder by 41-year-old goalkeeper Andre Arendse in the closing stages saw them bundled out of the competition.
SuperSport had led 1-0 for most of the first leg away in Kampala last month but let in two soft goals near the end of the game. Yet they were expected to easily overcome the deficit and might have been three or four goals ahead at half-time of Saturday night's second leg in Johannesburg had they been less profligate in attack.
It was substitute Mulondo Sikhwivhilu who finally put them ahead, and in a position to take the tie on the away goals rule, before Arendse dropped an innocuous looking cross in the penalty area. The Ugandan club's Anthony Bongole pounced to snatch the equaliser in the 82nd minute and the away side then hung on for their famous aggregate triumph.
Ajax Cape Town went out on the away goals rule to Monomotapa of Zimbabwe, the first time a South African side has lost in a continental club competition against their northern neighbours. A 2-1 win on Sunday in Harare, with goals from Mthulisi Maphosa and Charles Chiutsa, was enough for Monomotapa to advance after losing 3-2 in the first leg in South Africa.
Red faces in Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco and Tunisia, where former continental champions all exited, mirrored the embarrassment for the South Africans.
Yaoundé come up short
Three time winners Canon Yaoundé of Cameroon looked to have a simple task in the second leg of their tie against Primeiro Agosto, having won the first leg 1-0 on the road. But the delayed return match, played in Douala on Monday, saw the Angolan army side go ahead through Tuabi in the 32nd minute and hold on to level the aggregate score and then win on post-match penalties.
The 1991 winners Club Africain of Tunisia won away in the second leg of their tie with Djoliba, but went out on the away goals rule after losing 2-1 at home to the Malian club in the first leg. Algeria's JS Kabylie were beaten in Libya by Al Ahly Tripoli and Ghana's fabled Asante Kotoko went out to Ittihad Khemisset of Morocco.
But Morocco's major hopes, Royal Armed Forces, are out after failing to come back from a two-goal deficit in their tie against Heartland FC of Nigeria. Saturday's second leg in Rabat finished 1-1 to see the 1985 African champions depart 2-4 on aggregate.
The 16 surviving sides now play potentially the most important round of the year, seeking places in the lucrative last eight group phase. The first legs will be played on the weekend of 17-19 April with the return matches on the weekend of 1-3 May.
2009 CAF Champions League third round draw
Primeiro Agosto (Angola) v Al Hilal (Sudan)
Kano Pillars (Nigeria) v Al Ahly (Egypt, holders)
Djoliba (Mali) v Zesco United (Zambia)
Kampala City Council (Uganda) v Al Merreikh (Sudan)
Heartland FC (Nigeria) v Coton Sport (Cameroon)
TP Mazembe Englebert (DR Congo) v Ittihad Khemisset (Morocco)
ASEC Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire) v Monomotapa (Zimbabwe)
Al Ahly Tripoli (Libya) v Etoile Sahel (Tunisia)