• ES Setif lost 2-0 in the CAF Champions League first leg against Al-Ahly in Cairo • Final four return fixture takes place in Algeria on Tuesday 23 October • Djabou: "We’ll do our very best to continue the journey"
ES Setif started their group-stage campaign in the CAF Champions League with two defeats, one away to TP Mazembe and another at home to MC Alger. This prompted many to write off their chances of progress, despite 12 points still being up for grabs. The Algerian outfit, however, refused to give up and eventually bagged eight points in the last four games to reach the tournament's quarter-finals.
Among those who helped turn around the team’s fortunes was veteran Abdelmoumene Djabou, who, in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, summed up his team’s campaign by saying: “It was like we had two different sides. From being pointless after two games and odds-on to exit the competition, we pulled off a miracle, making a strong comeback and winning important games."
Al-Ahly hurdle Everyone at ES Setif knew they were in for a tough battle in the last-four after coming up against Al-Ahly, one of the giants of African football. And so it proved in the first leg when the Black Eagles went down 2-0. “We have to acknowledge that a lack of experience played a big role in that loss in Alexandria. We went into that game a bit overawed by our opponent’s stature. However, after the first half, we were all convinced we could get a positive result, and that our opponents weren’t as strong as we’d imagined. We looked more confident in the second half and played well, but we just couldn’t score,” the midfielder said.
With no option now but to go all out in the second leg, Djabou believes anything is possible on Tuesday. “Both teams have an equal chance, but, unlike the first leg, we’ll have home advantage and the backing of our fervent supporters. We have to score goals and at the same time not concede. We know it’s a difficult task, but we’re ready for it.”
The benefit of experience Setif tend to rely heavily on the experience of Djabou, who graced the biggest stage of all when he featured in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Having netted two goals there, against Korea Republic and Germany, Setif’s fans hope Djabou can repeat the trick against Al-Ahly, or at least use his experience to raise his team-mates’ game.
Asked about his exploits in Brazil and how he could draw on these for the upcoming game, Djabou said: “My World Cup experience empowered me to help my team-mates. I try to help young players both on and off the field so that they can perform well in games.”
“We had a similar experience in Brazil when we needed to win or at least draw against Russia to qualify for the second round. It is almost the same scenario now, as we need to win on Tuesday to qualify. While Madjid Bougherra and other veterans helped us [in Brazil] with their vast experience, I’ll play this role to try to get my team to the final,” he added.
Club World Cup dream Djabou certainly still has dreams of lifting Africa's continental club trophy and taking part in December’s FIFA Club World Cup, which will feature giants of the world game like Real Madrid. “I’ve played at the World Cup and the African Cup of Nations and have done everything at club level except to win the Champions league and participate in the Club World Cup. Every player dreams of winning a continental championship and making it to a major tournament like UAE 2018, so I’ll be doing everything in my power to finish my career with Setif with that very title and an appearance at the Club World Cup.
The man they call ‘the Algerian Messi’ concluded: “Despite our late surge in the group and the miracle of reaching the semi-finals, we’re not yet satisfied with what we’ve achieved. We’ll do our very best to continue the journey towards the continental title.”