Many fans agree that there are four grand CAF Champions League teams. The top four teams are Al Ahly, Zamalek, TP Mazembe and Esperance Tunis. They are not only acclaimed for the number of times they have won CAFCL but also because of their consistency in delivering great results. No team has made more semifinal appearances in the CAF Champions League era than this quartet.
A number of teams have threatened to join this elite class but they simply lacked the chops to be good over and over again in the CAFCL. I can immediately think of teams like Enyimba and Etoile Sahel who were momentarily a regular feature in the latter stages of this competition.
Wydad Casabalanca is another team that comes to mind but they standout because they have been able to maintain consistently good performances in the CAFCL. In fact, no other team has been better in the last half-decade. Wydad Casablanca has been able to reach at least the semifinal stage in 4 of the last 5 seasons. They even managed to win it once, as one of the strongest CAFCL winners of the last 10 seasons.
These stellar results have not always been the case. Wydad Casablanca completely dissapeared from the CAFCL scene after their African football heydays of the 1990s. This was the decade in which they won the first of their two Champions League titles.
Nobody spoke of Wydad again until 2011 when they managed to reach the group stage after TP Mazembe was kicked out for fielding an ineligible player. Unfortunately, they could not wrestle the trophy from an exceptional Esperance Tunis team. Wydad was not helped by the fact that their star man, Mouhcine Iajour, missed the final due to injury.
Wydad Casablanca came back in a big way in 2016 when they advanced as far as the semifinals. This return coincided with dramatic changes that were taking place in Morocco’s domestic football scene. All clubs benefitted from major improvements in sporting infrastructure and a shift to more professional administration of a football club.
The club itself benefitted from Said Naciri’s election as club President. This continues to spur Wydad Casablanca to make better decisions in terms of coach selection and player recruitment. Therefore, it is no surprise to see them assemble squads with players like Bencharki, Ounajem, El Karti and are now moving to new faces like Karkache.
If they got complacent, teams like RS Berkane and FUS Rabat will readily take their place, Morocco’s league has become the league with most depth of good clubs in Africa (good means teams that can reach CAFCC group stage on a regular basis).
A double boost to Wydad Casablanca’s ambition to become the most successful team in Africa is that we are witnessing the waning power of Tunisia. Yes, they still have Esperance Tunis but the other Tunisian teams are not bringing too much to the table. Club Africain fell apart, Etoile Sahel always underperforms and CS Sfaxien’s good days are far between. Other usual suspects like DR Congo and Sudan are in the same state. TP Mazembe has pretty much become a selling club and Al Hilal do not hit the ceiling anymore. Their path is being cleared.
Wydad Casablanca’s advantage of a competitive Botola to drive them increasingly looks like a permanent feature of things going forward. They might not need to rely on the failings of places like Tunisia to succeed.
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