New and old take gold in Africa
In Morocco, Olympique Khouribga won their first title ever holding onto a runaway lead despite a jittery finish to the season while in Tunisia Etoile Sahel finally ended an astonishing run of seven successive season as runners-up in the league by snatching their Holy Grail.
African champions Al Ahli easily won the league in Egypt although spoilt their record by losing their last two matches. In February they had their long-standing unbeaten run of more than two seasons ended.
FIFA.com for a look at the campaigns that have
come to a recent conclusion...
EGYPT: Al Ahli's defeat by Zamalek in the Cairo derby and then again at the hands of Ismaili in the final mach of the season at the end of May were only their second and third losses respectively in three years in the premier league. But defeat for Manuel Jose's team came long after they had settled the outcome of the championship and after the Portuguese coach had sent six keys players off on early holidays.
The dominance of the African champions has been almost total,
their only hiccups coming in January when Ismaili ended a
two-and-a-half year unbeaten run in domestic competition with a
surprise 3-0 away win and again at the end of the campaign. Al Ahli
finished five points clear of Zamalek, who just edged past Ismaili
in the final weeks to claim the runners-up berth and Egypt's
second spot in next yea's African Champions League.
The Egyptian champions are celebrating their century this year and have offered their maverick coach, who got in much trouble earlier in the season for stripping off his shirt in protest at a refereeing decision, a new two-year deal.
GHANA: Accra's Hearts of Oak regained their title from archrivals Asante Kotoko, whose campaign fell apart in the closing stages and who finished third, outside the spots for next year's African Champions League. Hearts finished with 58 points, five ahead of Ashanti Gold. Hearts' 19th title puts them now just one behind Kotoko in the all-time race and confirms their dominance of GHANA's championship over the last decade.
LIBYA: A dream year for Tripoli's Al Ittihad continued as they won a third successive title plus made it to the group phase of the African Champions League for the first time. Ittihad suffered just one defeat in making sure of their LIBYA first division title with a six-point lead over arch rivals Al Ahli Tripoli.
MOROCCO: MOROCCO's title race delivered a first time champion in the form of provincial club Olympique Khouribga, who were runaway leaders for most of the season but who once they lost their unbeaten record went on a jittery run in a nervy finish before making sure of the title. In the end they were still seven points clear of second placed Royal Armed Forces but at one stage of the season their lead was well in the double figures. Khouribga, founded in 1922, are coached by former international Mohamed Madih and come from the phosphorous producing region of the country.
The league title is only their second piece of silverware after
cup success last season. Royal Armed Forces only made sure of
second place, yet again this season, on the last day of the
campaign, when they overhauled Moghreb Tetouan, who were held to a
thrilling 3-3 away draw, dropping two vital points in the process.
The soldiers therefore return for another tilt at the African
Champions League title next year, having qualified for the last
eight in the current campaign.
SOUTH AFRICA: Mamelodi Sundowns won eleven matches in a row between January and April to finish the South African premier league ten points clear of surprise package Silver Stars, who had been the league leaders at the Christmas break. It was Sundowns' second successive title and saw 33-year-old midfielder Godfrey Sapula crowned Footballer of the Year for his dominant role in the campaign.
The first half of the season saw a bevy of different teams at
the head of the standings and at one stage only five points
separated the first 10 clubs in the standings. But then Sundowns,
whose owner Patrice Motsepe is a free-spending mining magnate, took
the title race by the scruff of the neck and raced away with the
points. It ensured for their coach Gordon Igesund, who took over in
October, an unprecedented fourth premier league title in the last
decade. Remarkably, all have been achieved with different clubs.
TUNISIA: Etoile clinched their championship in their penultimate match of the season, ending their long-standing bridesmaids' role. Ironically they had spent much of the season looking up at Club Africain on the standings but in the end overhauled the Tunis side and won the title by four clear points. Club Africain had to hang on to the runners-up spot, in the end just shading defending champions Esperance on goal difference by two goals.
Etoile Sahel held vociferous celebrations in their hometown of Sousse after making sure of their new found status as champions but the party was spoilt by the quick departure of coach Faouzi Benzerti. He quit amid accusation of a lack of support from officials.
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