CAF

Weekend Guide 18.3.2016

A visit to a thrilling African Champions League clash, the island of Macau will welcome us with a top match and finally, a chill out match from Cuba with few cigars and the new names in the local title race.

(All the hours are in CET local time)

Amateur (Like  these guys)

What? Al-Hilal Omdurman – Al Ahli Tripoli (CAF Champions League)

When? Sunday, 1800

Where? Al-Hilal Stadium, Omdurman

Why? Al Ahli Tripoli is one step from making one of the biggest sensations in the African football. The Libyan champions won the first leg at neutral ground, 1:0, and now they will travel to Sudan, for the second leg against Al-Hilal Omdurman. Al-Hilal are last season’ semifinalists, who finished as runner-ups twice in the history.

Key Players: Mohamed Ahmed Bashir, known as Bisha, is the leading player of Al-Hilal and the Sudanese league top scorer with 8 goals in 9 matches. In Al Ahli you should look at Ali Salama, Libya national team captain.

Touching History: In 1984 African Cup Winners Cup, Al Ahli Tripoli qualified to the finals. Due to the complicated relations between Libya and Egypt, Al Ahli Tripoli refused to play against Al Ahly from Cairo, so they disqualified and were replaced by their semifinals opponents, Canon Yaoundé of Cameroon.

Professional (like this goal)

What? Benfica de Macau – Sporting Macau (Macau Primeira Divisão)

When? Saturday, 0700

Where? Estádio Campo Desportivo, Taipa

Why? No, this is not the derby of Lisbon, but this is the match of the day in Macau. Benfica are the reigning champions in past two seasons while they lead the league with 24 points in 8 matches. Sporting Macau will try to be the first team to defeat them, as they are in the 2nd place with 20 points.

Key Players: After playing in Portugal lower divisions, the goalkeeper Rui Nibra seems to be Benfica’s most dominant player, also thanks for his good performance. Sporting main man is local forward Miguel Botelho, one of the club’s great scorers in recent years.

Lock the Gates: Not only that Benfica haven't lost yet, they also didn't concede a single goal this season. They continue their insane run of 13 league matches without a goal against.

World Class (like this goal)

What? Guantánamo – La Habana (Campeonato Nacional de Fútbol de Cuba)

When? Saturday, 2130

Where? Estadio Rogelio Palacios, Guantánamo

Why? The lovely island of Cuba has an interesting domestic league and the two leaders are ready for a hot date. Guantánamo are in the 2nd place, 2 points behind La Habana. Both of teams want to make another step towards a rare title. For Guantánamo it will be the debut title, while for La Habana it will be first title since 1967.

Key Players: Alberto Gómez, or 'Beto', of Guantánamo is the guy to watch, as he was one of the leaders of the national team in the historic Caribbean Cup title in 2012. In La Habana you just can't miss Jaime Colomé, 36 years old veteran midfielder that represented Cuba in 5 Gold Cups and plays for the club since 2002.

Long Tradition: Cuba is one of the oldest football nations in the world. The league is playing since 1912 and this is the 101st edition of the competition. Cuba even played in 1938 World Cup.

Weekend Guide 11.3.2016

It's the middle of March. In some leagues, you can hear the final whistle behind to corner. For others, this is the whistle for the kick off. In this Weekend Guide you’ll see both – a top match from Albania, another interesting visit to the CAF Champions League and the first match of the Turkmen league.

(All the hours are in CET local time)

Amateur (Like this penalty)

What? Partizani – Skënderbeu (Albanian Superliga)

When? Monday, 1900

Where? Qemal Stafa Stadium, Tirana

Why? Everyone can feel the tension as we are getting closer to the end of the season and there’s a match for the title. Skënderbeu, the Albanian champions since 2011, will travel as the league leaders to Tirana. There they will play against Partizani, which in 2nd place with 5 points less.

Key Players: In Partizani, the main player will be Xhevahir Sukaj, who played in Iran in the past three years and scored 12 goals this season. From the other side, Skënderbeu will focus on Hamdi Salihi, who played in Austria, USA and China and now he´s the league’s top scorer with 21 goals.

Support of the Fans: Partizani's Arbnor Fejzullahu got his first call up to the national team in an interesting way. He was invited to a training camp for diaspora Albanian players after a recommendation by Jetmir Salihu, a member of the national team fan club.

Professional (like this goal)

What? APR – Young Africans (CAF Champions League)

When? Saturday, 1430

Where? Amahoro Stadium, Kigali

Why? It always great to see two minor teams facing each other, knowing that one of them will progress to the next stage in a continental tournament. APR, the champions of Rwanda, will try to pass through the first stage for the first time since 2004. The Tanzanian champions, Young Africans, recall their history with two appearances in the Champions Cup quarter finals in 1969 and 1970.

Key Players: Watch for APR's Abdul Rwatubyaye, the main player of his club that scored decisive hat-trick in the previous round. In Young Africans you can find Nizar Khalfan, former Vancouver Whitecaps player with 43 international caps for Tanzania.

Transnational Legend: One of the biggest names in the history of Young African was born in Burundi, played for short time in Tanzania and was part of DR Congo national team. Yes, we're talking about Shabani Nonda.

World Class (like this goal)

What? Altyn Asyr – Balkan (Turkmenistan Yokari Liga)

When? Saturday, 1100

Where? Ashgabat Stadium, Ashgabat

Why? It’s a new season in Turkmenistan and the biggest match-up of the league is here. Altyn Asyr, the champions of the two previous seasons will try to win their third title in a row. Balkan were the runner-ups, but they wish to be much closer than a gap of 24 points like in the last season.

Key Players: Ahmet Ataýew, Altyn Asyr midfielder and the national team captain, was last season league MVP, so he definitely will be a guy to watch for. Balkan's Ýagmyrmyrat Annamyradow is one of the veteran players in the league and was part of Balkan winning squad in 2013 AFC President's Cup.

The Key to Success: Ýazguly Hojageldyýew, Altyn Asyr manager, led Turkmenistan national team to their biggest achievement, finalists of the AFC Challenge Cup in 2010 and 2012.

Weekend Guide 13.2.2016

I can tell you missed us, didn't you? The Weekend Guide is back in business, and this time we take you to the derby of La Paz, an Olympic clash between the women national teams of United States and Mexico, and finally, the African Champions League kick-off.

(All the hours are in CET local time)

Amateur (Like this guy)

What? The Strongest – Bolívar (Liga de Fútbol Profesional Boliviano)

When? Sunday, 2215

Where? Estadio Hernando Siles, La Paz

Why? The highest capital in the world is getting ready for the Clásico Paceño - the city derby

. After both teams failed to win the Apertura, they hope that the Clausura will be different. The Strongest are in 4th place, 2 points from the leadership, and Bolívar are on 2nd place with a gap of just of 1 point.

Key Players: Ramiro Ballivián took part in the tremendous seasons of Universitario de Sucre in the past 7 years and he will try to repeat it in The Strongest.  Erwin Saavedra, Bolívar’s defender, is just 19 years old but he is part of the team lineup in every match.

Are You Ready? If you thought that The Strongest is an unusual name, in Bolivian regional leagues you can find club with the name Always Ready, one of the first clubs in La Paz and first ever Bolivian team to travel to Europe.

Professional (like that match)

What? United States – Mexico (CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship)

When? Saturday, 2200

Where? Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX

Why? As we are getting closer to the Olympic Games in Rio, now it's the time to see which women teams will represent CONCACAF. United States, 4-times Olympic champions, won their first match against Costa Rica, 5:0. After qualifying to three World Cups, Mexico wishes to make an Olympic debut, after they defeated Puerto Rico 6:0 in last Wednesday.

Key Players: The American team is full of great players, but we chose to focus on Christen Press, who scored 30 goals in 57 international caps and you definitely should see her last goalCecilia Santiago, the 21 years old Mexican goalkeeper, was just 16 years old during her international debut and she is the youngest player to play in the World Cup ever.

The Debutants: While Mexico still tries to qualify, one team already confirmed they Olympic debut in Rio – the team of Zimbabwe, which knocked out Cameroon in the decisive match.

World Class (like this kick)

What? Ashanti Gold – MO Béjaïa (CAF Champions League)

When? Sunday, 1600

Where? Len Clay Stadium, Obuasi

Why? These two teams could easily progress to the later stages of the tournament but one will be eliminated in the preliminary round. Ashanti Gold won the Ghanaian Premier League for the first time since 1996 and they will try to go all the way to the finals, as they did in 1997. Even though MO Béjaïa missed the Algerian title by single point, they will make history with their debut season in continental competition.

Key Players: Ashanti Gold star is the veteran defender, Emmanuel Osei, who played in Turkey, Italy and the MLS. Zahir Zerdab, MO Béjaïa midfielder, spent few years in the French lower division before arriving to Algeria and he was main part in the club's last season.

Good to See You: In the same round, Cercle de Joachim from Mauritius will play against Young Africans from Tanzania. They will be the first team from Mauritius to play in the Champions league since 2010.

*

Thumbnail photo by AFP

Weekend Guide 28.11.2015

There are people who like to travel the world and to see new places; the Weekend Guide is here to make your travels even more interesting. This week we will visit the derby of Sofia, a high profile match in Qatar and finally, a glorious final in Africa.

Amateur (Like these dancers)

What? Levski Sofia – Slavia Sofia (Bulgarian A Football Group)

When? Sunday, 1645

Where? Georgi Asparuhov Stadium, Sofia

Why? The biggest team in Bulgaria, Levski Sofia, didn't win a title since 2009. They are currently leading the table after 16 matches. Slavia will try to hold them back, even though they are just on 5th place.

Key Players: Levski's Radoslav Tsonev is one of the hot prospects of Bulgarian football, as he just 20 years old and already have important role in the team. Don't miss Slavia's Ivaylo Dimitrov, who played for years in the lower divisions of Bulgaria and now he is a rising star in the league with 5 goals.

In the name of the Hero: Slavia is a common name for Eastern European clubs, but Levski is a unique one. The club named after Bulgaria national hero, Vasil Levski, who was one of the Bulgarian liberation movement leaders from the 19th century.

Professional (like this goal)

What? Al Rayyan – Al Jaish (Qatar Stars League)

When? Saturday, 1530

Where? Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan

Why? Al Rayyan opened the season with an insane record - 9 consecutive wins. Al Jaish will try to stop them and close the gap while they are in 2nd place, 4 points behind.

Key Players: The Qatari league always produces unstoppable scorers, and Al Rayyan has the Brazilian-Qatari of Japanese background Rodrigo Tabata, who scored 10 goals in 9 matches. Al Jaish has a much younger star than the 35 years old striker -  Abderrazak Hamdallah, 24 years old Moroccan who came in a free transfer from China, and scored 8 goals.

International Coach: Al Rayyan's manager, Jorge Fossati, won the Qatari title in 2007, after he triumphed at 3 other countries – Uruguay, Ecuador and Paraguay.

World Class (like these fans)

What? Étoile du Sahel – Orlando Pirates (CAF Confederation Cup)

When? Sunday, 1930

Where? Stade Olympique de Sousse, Sousse

Why? After a 1:1 tie in the first leg, the tension is high in the CAF Confederation Cup final. Étoile du Sahel won the tournament in 2006, and a year later won the CAF Champions League. They wish to continue the Tunisian dominance in the tournament with 5th title for their country. Orlando Pirates was the first South African club to win the CAF Champions League in 1995 and now they can be the first South African club to win the secondary club tournament in the continent.

Key Players: Aymen Mathlouthi is Étoile du Sahel goalkeeper since 2003 and one of the indispensable players of the club. In Orlando Pirates you should look at Thamsanqa Gabuza, the player who scored in the first leg, and has 5 more goals in the tournament, making him a real contender for the golden boot award.

Lost and Found: Orlando Pirates' all-time league top scorer Benedict Vilakazi played in some interesting clubs during the past years. He played in Swaziland, Botswana and his current club is Botswana Meat Commission F.C. Sounds like it is BBQ time!