Draw brings history for Sudan trio
Confederation of African Football (CAF) history will be created during August when three teams from the same country play each other in the group stage of a club competition for the first time. Sudanese sides Al Ahly Shandy, Al Hilal and Al Merreikh are in Group A of the CAF Confederation Cup with 2011 semi-finalists InterClube of Angola, who defeated Al Amal Atbara from the east African nation in a qualifier.
The draw means the Angolan police team are going to become very familiar with the flight from Luanda to Khartoum as they visit the vast, oil-rich country in early August, mid-September and mid-October. Malian duo Stade Malien and Djoliba, AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco comprise Group B in the second-tier CAF club championship.
Having two clubs from one country in a Confederation Cup mini-leagus is not uncommon with Sable Batie and Coton Sport of Cameroon in the same group of the first edition eight years ago. There have been seven other cases of two sides from the same nation being drawn together, including Nigerian outfits Dolphin and Kwara United and Tunisian giants Esperance and Etoile Sahel.
Eliminating air miles
The Sudanese trio will welcome the draw as it dramatically reduces travel, which can be very time consuming in Africa - with some teams finding it quicker to fly via Europe to away fixtures.
Omdurman-based Hilal and Merreikh are perennial CAF campaigners - either in the CAF Champions League or Confederation Cup - while Ahly are competing for the first time. Merreikh were runners-up to CS Sfaxien in the 2007 Confederation Cup while Hilal were eliminated by the same Tunisian club in a 2010 semi-finals penalty shootout.
Ahly reached the last eight by eliminating Ferroviario Maputo of Mozambique, Simba of Tanzania after a marathon shootout and Coton Sport of Cameroon, and are coached by Tunisian Mohamed Kouki. Stade Malien were surprise winners of the 2009 Confederation Cup, pipping Algerian visitors Entente Setif of Algeria on penalties in Bamako after both teams triumphed 2-0 at home.
Djoliba failed to get past the group phase in a previous apperaance while giantkillers Leopards, who eliminated title holders MAS Fes of Morocco in a fiery clash at the weekend, and Wydad Casablanca of Morocco are pool debutants.
Mini-league fixtures run from 3 August to 21 October with group winners and runners-up advancing to the semi-finals of a competition won three times each by clubs from Morocco and Tunisia and once each by sides from Ghana and Mali.