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Cash-strapped Gambians hitch ride from Algerian club they shocked

Johannesburg (AFP) – Algerian club Entente Setif showed remarkable sportsmanship on Sunday by allowing a delegation from cash-strapped CAF Champions League opponents Fortune FC of Gambia to share a flight to north Africa.    

The Gambian side pulled off a stunning 3-0 preliminary round first leg triumph in Bakau near Banjul this weekend as they debuted in the elite African club competition.

But after celebrating goals from Ebrima Camara, Patrick Sylva and Alieu Barry against two-time African champions Setif, Fortune admitted they lacked funds to play the return match.   

Had they not travelled to Setif, a city 270 kilometres (168 miles) southeast of Algiers, Fortune would have been disqualified and Setif awarded a walkover into the round of 32. 

A CAF official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the Algerians refused to take advantage of the Gambians’ financial woes and, instead, allowed them to fill vacant seats for the return flight. 

Fortune officials did not immediately comment on how the club would pay for the players to return home from Algeria.

Clubs must win one or two home-and-away ties to reach the group stage of the CAF Champions League, where the prize money begins with qualifiers guaranteed a minimum $550,000 (465,000 euros).

If Fortune eliminate Setif and cause one of the biggest shocks in CAF Champions League history, they will meet ESAE of Benin or Nouadhibou of Mauritania for a place in the 16-club group phase.

– ASEC well placed –

The other former African champions in action, ASEC Mimosas from the Ivory Coast, look set to advance after a 1-0 away win over Teungueth of Senegal in Thies. 

Oumar Diakite scored early in the second half for the Abidjan outfit, who lifted the trophy in 1998 by defeating Dynamos of Zimbabwe in the final. 

Hearts of Oak from Ghana, the 2000 title-holders, did not travel to Guinea after the recent coup there and the tie against Kamsar has been reduced to one leg in Accra on September 19. 

Debutants AmaZulu of South Africa were shock 1-0 losers at home to Nyasa Big Bullets of Malawi in Indian Ocean port city Durban with Chiukepo Msowoya snatching the 26th-minute winner.

AmaZulu coach Benni McCarthy, a part of the Jose Mourinho-managed Porto squad that won the 2004 UEFA Champions League, boasted before the game that his side could win the competition.

“No disrespect to Kaizer Chiefs (2021 Champions League runners-up), but we genuinely think we can do better,” said the former national team star before facing Bullets.

But McCarthy was forced to eat humble pie after the defeat, calling the match “a horror show” for a club that surprisingly finished runners-up to Sundowns in the South African Premiership last season. 

“I think some of our players thought it was going to be an easy match. You could see the lack of enthusiasm, the lack of desire to score goals,” he said.

“In South Africa we keep crying that we do not have footballers who want to score goals. It is because our players simply do not want to take that responsibility.”

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