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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Africa’s greatest club sides of all

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Goal, in collaboration with African Football HQ, remember the greatest club sides in the continent’s sporting history

Guest Feature | Lotfi Wada

Goal  in collaboration with African Football HQ , are delighted to present the fourth instalment of our series celebrating the greatest club sides in the history of the continent’s game.

In Part One, we presented the two sides who rank 15th and 16th in our all-time continental ranking of the great African club cycles – Esperance and Al-Hilal – and subsequently we’ve celebrated the achievements of Asante Kotoko and CS Sfaxien.

Follow the team at African Football HQ for some of the finest news and stats related to the continental game.

Five years after their Caf Cup triumph against Nigerian giants Julius Berger, JS Kabylie began an unprecedented—and dramatic—period of dominance in the competition.

After eliminating Tout Puissant Mazembe in the second round during the 2000 edition, the Amazighs had to lock horns with title holders Etoile du Sahel, who they eventually took down through a nail-biting penalty shootout in Sousse.

The final step to the final saw Les Canaris defeat the late Iwuanyanwu (now Heartland FC) thanks to two formidable goals from Faouzi Moussouni, one of the heroes of their 1995 crown.

Powered by the likes of Emad El-Nahhas, John Utaka, Mohamed Barakat, Mamadou Keita, Hommos and Sayed Moawad, their opponents Ismaily stormed their way to the final, conceding just four goals and scoring 28.  

The highlight had been a 7-0 demolition of Stade d’Abidjan, as a sublime Ismaily side reached their apogee.

The first leg in Ismailia surely looked to favour the Brazilians, as the mercurial Barakat broke the deadlock from the spot to convert Ismaily’s domination into a tangible advantage.

Kabylie answered 12 minutes later through a long-range strike from Kabylie-born Lounes Bendahmane, and salvaged a draw to give themselves the upper hand heading into the return leg. In front of 90,000 fans in the cathedral of the Stade du 5 Juillet, Les Canaris just had to finish the job in the second leg to get their hands on the continental prize.

JSK had the upper hand but missed glorious chances to send fans into ecstasy through Moussouni, Mounir Dob and the first-leg hero Bendahmane.

A huge shiver ran down JSK fans’ spines at the 85th minute as Mohamed Abougreisha, alone in front of the net, missed the chance of his life and fail to reproduce the heroics of his namesake, all-time Ismaily great Ali, and follow in his footsteps to win African gold three decades later.

“It’s as if JSK scored a goal” shouted the famous Hafidh Darraji, commentating the game, and the Algerians’ relief at the let-off was palpable.

The final whistle liberated fans, players and staff, as the 0-0 draw on the day, and the victory on away goals, thrust JSK back into the limelight and sent them on their way to an unprecedented treble.

The 2001 crown was just as dramatic; after qualifying for the final by the skin of their teeth thanks to a late-late Dob goal against Africa Sports, the holders went toe to toe with Etoile du Sahel for a second successive Caf Cup.

ESS dominated the first leg against the holders who concentrated on defending, and operated on the counter to create danger.

It was a strategy which partially paid off, as Hakim Boubrit scored a crucial away goal in the last minutes of the first half to ensure the Canaris returned home with a one-goal lead to defend.

This time the mission was different, but the place & the outcome were the same.

At the Stade du 5 Juillet, JSK dominated the first exchanges, while Etoile relied on counters and the brilliance of their two attackers, Zied Jaziri & the sensational Abdulkader Keita.

In the 28th minute, JSK’s Brahim Zafour reached a cross a second earlier than the keeper and headed the ball towards the goal, only for an Etoile player to stop it…apparently on the line.

The referee, however, deemed that the ball had crossed and awarded the goal—to the joy of the noisy JSK fans, and to the ire of Etoile players and staff.

The Algerians finally got the goal they wanted, and prompted an implosion among ESS players.

Keita headbutted a JSK to cap off an increasingly ill-tempered final, and the Kabyles had won their second Caf Cup on the bounce.

A few months later, launched again in a Caf Cup adventure, JS Kabylie’s objective was clear: to become the first side to win the tournament three times in a row.

Unlike the previous editions the Algerians would dominate the competition without any real problems, and peaked in the first leg of the final against Tonnerre Yaounde.

The Yellow & Green machine put four past the frozen Cameroonians in a one-sided game which could comfortably have ended with a bigger margin.

The return leg loss in Yaounde was academic, as JSK would sail through and complete an unprecedented triple crown.

The end of this extraordinary generation came at the hands of Senegalese minnows SONACOS.

After a 1-1 draw in Senegal, JSK failed to break them down in Algeria and left their favourite competition in thoroughly underwhelming fashion.

JS Kabylie’s triple crown is yet to be repeated in either the Caf Champions League or Confederation Cup, and they firmly deserve their place among the continent’s all-time great sides.

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