By Busisani Ncube
African club competition returns following a hiatus of more than six months, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and in a historic feat Morocco plays host to all four semifinal ties this weekend.
Both the Champions League and African Confederation Cup resume at the semi-final stage. The prestigious Champions League continues in its traditional format but the Confederation Cup is being concluded in a mini-tournament at a single venue, as was the case with Europe’s two annual club competitions in August.
The competitions were postponed indefinitely in March as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted football activities worldwide.
The 2019 runners-up Wydad Casablanca host record winners Al Ahly of Egypt behind closed doors at the 52000-seater Mohamed V Stadium in Casablanca on Saturday in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
Wydad’s crosstown rivals Raja Casablanca meet Zamalek on Sunday at the same venue in another tie pitting a Moroccan club against Egyptian opposition.
The return legs will be played in Alexandria on October 23 and October 24 respectively. The initial plan by CAF was to host the final stages of both competitions in a mini-tournament format with single semi-finals and a final a few days later at a central venue.
However, Cameroon were earmarked to host the Champions League semis but they pulled out with no alternative in sight for CAF.
For the first time in the competition’s 56-year history, the final will not be played over two legs, a decision made last year. On the other hand, the Confederation Cup will be concluded behind closed doors at the
Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Morocco’s capital Rabat.
There is an all-Moroccan clash between Hassania Agadir and Renaissance Berkane on Monday, followed the next day by the second semi-final between Guinea’s Horoya and Pyramids of Egypt. The final is set for Sunday, October 25.