Etoile Sahel, an African institution

Etoile Sahel enjoyed an extraordinary run of success in recent years, most notably in African club competition, where they have reached the final of a major competition for the last five years running.

The high point came in 2007, with success in the CAF Champions League. Winning the continent's top competition elevated the club to Africa's elite also established Etoile as the only team who have won every single major CAF trophy. In a highly competitive domestic league, the Tunisians have often had to play second fiddle behind their archrivals Esperance and the ongoing battle between the coastal club and the team from the capital is among the most intense in world football.

Birth of an institutionEtoile Sahel were formed on 11 May 1925 as a sporting association for former pupils of the Franco-Arab school in the seaside town of Sousse, an addition to an existing cultural organisation for the town's Muslim intellectuals when the country was still a French colony.

Chedly Boujemia was voted in as its first president and the name 'Etoile' adopted as a symbol of nationalism, giving the club immediate appeal. It played at first against clubs of distinct other national groups, the French (Patriote de Sousse), Jews (Maccabi), Italians (La Savola) and Maltese (Red Star). Initially, life was tough for Etoile, who had difficulty getting equipment to play with and grounds to compete at, having been denied use of the town's main stadium by the French.

However, they persisted and in 1931, the side won promotion to the top flight, reaching the final of the Tunisia Cup the following year. The club was established as a force to be reckoned with.

Finding their feetTrophies soon followed, starting in 1950, when the team claimed their first of nine Tunisia championship titles. Vital to their success during this era was legendary striker Habib Mougou, nicknamed Tete d'Or (golden head).

After Tunisia secured independence, Mogou continued to be the inspiration for more trophies and a second title in 1958, followed by a first cup success a year layer when he scored twice as Etoile came from two goals down against Esperance to take the trophy.

Etoile then evolved into perennial challengers for success in Tunisia, all the while producing key players for the national team. Arguably the most successful has been Abdelmajid Chetali, who played for Tunisia in the 1960s and then later went on to coach the team at their debut FIFA World Cup™ finals in 1978

Making a nameIt has been in African competition that Etoile's reputation has been built. Their international campaigns began in the early 1970s in regional tournaments and it was only in 1984 that they entered a continental competition for the first time, going out in the first round of the African Cup Winners' Cup to Al Ahli Tripoli.

From that humble start, Etoile can now claim to be the only African club to have won every one of the continental club titles. First it was the Confederation of African Football Cup in 1995, followed by a triumph in the African Cup Winners' Cup in 1997. Then, in 1998, Etoile won the Super Cup match over Raja Casablanca of Morocco and continued their mazy run of five successive finals the following year with another CAF Cup triumph.

In 2003, there was further Cup Winners' Cup success in the tournament's final year and, in 2006, Etoile beat Moroccan opposition again to win the new Confederation Cup. The biggest prize of all, the CAF Champions League, took some persistence, with Etoile losing in successive finals before securing an historic triumph in 2007 with a shock win over Al Ahly.

The victory came less than six months after Etoile had won their own domestic championship, ending an astonishing sequence of nine consecutive seasons as runners-up.

The presentEtoile have had a tumultuous year, beaten in a dramatic finish to the league title by Club Africain after surrendering a seemingly unassailable position. It resulted in the departure of French coach Bertrand Marchand, with whom the club had won the CAF Champions League just six months earlier, and the appointment of Swiss Michel Decastel.

Decastel did not last long, however, losing his job even after Etoile went through the group phase of the African Confederation Cup unbeaten to book a meeting in November's final with compatriots CS Sfaxien. Etoile were the favourites but lost the tie on away goals rules, ending a brief tenure of Herve Gauthier, who has now been replaced by Etoile's fourth coach of the year, the Franco-German Gernot Rohr.
* The stadium*Stade Olympique de Sousse, which has a capacity of 25,000, has staged two CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals and played host to the 2001 Mediterranean Games' football tournament. The stadium was built in 1973 with an initial capacity of 10,000 but was extended for the 1994 Cup of Nations and then again for the Mediterranean Games.

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