Younes: We celebrated the Algerian revolution perfectly
Setif recently became the first Algerian side to win the CAF Champions League since the tournament adopted its current format in 1997. Thanks to a 1-1 second-leg draw against Congolese outfit Vita Club in Blida, Setif wrapped up their second African title overall, having previously lifted the trophy in 1988. A breakthrough triumph, their win also ended Algeria's long 24-year wait for continental success in the club realm.
One of the principal heroes for Setif on their journey to glory was Sofiane Younes, scorer of his side's only goal in the decisive leg. Speaking to FIFA.com, the forward delighted in reliving his showpiece joy.
"It was a historic goal which I'll never forget," he said. "To see thousands of Algerians out in the streets to celebrate the win was an immense honour. It's the most important goal of my career, but it was the work of the whole club: the fans, the coach, the officials and the players. I'm happy to have added another medal to my collection after the Algerian Cup and Super Cup."
Younes also underlined the significance of clinching the crown on 1 November, the 60th anniversary of the start of Algeria's war of independence. "We played the final on an important day for all Algerians. We couldn't have celebrated the national revolution in a more fantastic way than with a title."
Proving his worth The 32-year-old's performances in the Champions League had the added benefit of making his critics eat their words, many having questioned the move when Setif brought him on board in the summer. Younes joined the club in June, following stints for a clutch of teams in Algeria, including Alger and Kabylie.
Instead of floundering, the striker quickly found his feet in his new surroundings and helped Setif reach the apex of the African game. "I tried to show everyone that I'm a player you can depend on," he said. "The coach Kheireddine Madoui put his faith in me and I earned it."
Younes's detractors feared the new arrival was too old to have an impact, yet he put those fears to bed with a number of energetic displays that rolled back the years. "I enjoyed a second youth with Setif in the Champions League," he explained. "It's the dream of every player to take part in this competition, which is followed across Africa and also in Europe. Because of that, I gave everything in training and during the games in order to silence my critics."
The newcomer certainly did that, weighing in with four crucial goals as Setif took the continent by storm. His first came against Al Ahli Benghazi during the group stage, when his late effort secured his side a spot in the last four. Younes then found the net both home away against semi-final rivals Mazembe.
"That was a great performance," he recalled. "My goal in the return game kept us alive after we'd been flirting with elimination. We were trailing to Mazembe and my strike put us back on track. I'll never forget that goal, which was given to us by God."
Despite a number of tense moments along the way, however, Younes feels his team fully deserved their ultimate victory. "We were strong from start to finish," he said. "We didn't think we'd make it all the way to the final, but we showed determination and our dream kept getting bigger with every match. It turned out that we deserved to play in the final.
"We beat some big clubs," he added. "The make-up of our team is different to many others: we're a young side, with only five more experienced players. In spite of that, our perseverance made it possible for us to win."
Setif likewise drew strength from the impressive unity in their ranks as they clinched the fifth African title won by an Algerian club. Younes may have weighed in with the vital goals, but he is the first to recognise the importance of his team-mates. "My goals were important, but they weren't just the work of Younes," he said.
"They were the result of the work put in by all my colleagues, as well as the advice of my coach and his tactical choices. The medical staff also made it possible for the players to be at their physical peak during the whole competition. And the financial and psychological support of the officials helped us overcome every obstacle."
Hunger for titles Setif are now gearing up to dispute the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco, where they will rub shoulders with the likes of Real Madrid, the most successful side in the history of the UEFA Champions League. A daunting challenge perhaps, but Younes believes he and his team-mates are well-equipped for success.
"Every player dreams of playing in this competition," he said. "We don't fear anyone and we'll win thanks to the experience we've picked up. We're ready to spring another shock in Morocco."
Football fans far and wide are relishing the prospect of watching the Algerian hopefuls make their debut in the tournament. And if Younes can serve up a few more crucial goals, who would be brave enough to write off their chances of facing Madrid in the final on 20 December?