New-look Champions League set to begin
February 11, 2017
Up to 18 players who competed at the Africa Cup of Nations could be involved in the new-look Champions League when it kicks off this weekend.
Among them is Georges Bokwe, one of two unused goalkeepers in the Cameroon squad that defeated Egypt in the final last Sunday in Gabon.
Bokwe was kept out of the starting line-up by the consistent brilliance of Spain-based Fabrice Ondoa, who was included in the team of the tournament.
But Bokwe is the first choice for regular Champions League entrants Coton Sport from northern Cameroon cotton town Garoua.
Coton qualified for the 2008 final, losing to Al Ahly of Egypt, but have fared poorly recently with first round exits in the past two seasons.
Drawn against Atlabara of South Sudan in the two-leg preliminary round this year, the Cameroon outfit are favoured to secure a last-32 place.
While Coton have the experience of 15 previous Champions League campaigns behind them, Atlabara suffered a preliminary-round loss in a lone previous challenge.
Coton and Atlabara are among 46 clubs in action this weekend as an exciting new chapter in the Champions League unfolds.
Total prize money has soared from $5.7m (£4.6m) to $10m, a 119.30% increase.
Significant prize fund
The group phase – where the cash kicks in – has been expanded from eight to 16 clubs with participants guaranteed at least $550,000 (£440,000) each.
For clubs dreaming of going all the way and succeeding where Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa did last year, the “carrot” is a $2.5m (£2m) first prize.
Sundowns are among nine clubs given byes on merit into the round of 32, with record eight-time champions Al Ahly another.
Preliminary participants include V Club of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1973 winners of the African Cup of Champions Clubs, forerunner to the Champions League.
The Kinshasa outfit face Royal Leopard of Swaziland and can call on Joyce Lomalisa Mutambala, a defender with unhappy memories of the 2017 Cup of Nations.
He was the only player sent off in the 32-match tournament, having come off the bench in a win over Morocco and been yellow-carded twice within 17 minutes.
Former title-holders in the second-tier Confederation Cup, Stade Malien of Mali, FUS Rabat of Morocco and AC Leopards of Congo Brazzaville, play this weekend.
Stade face Barrack Young Controllers II of Liberia, FUS meet Johansen of Sierra Leone and Leopards play UMS Loum of Cameroon.
Others in action include three clubs who won the now defunct African Cup Winners Cup, Enugu Rangers of Nigeria, Horoya of Guinea and Al Merrikh of Sudan.
Enugu tackle JS Saoura of Algeria, Horoya confront Goree of Senegal and Merrikh challenge Sony Ela Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.
Nkemnji Global Tech
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