Esperance booked their ticket to the final after edging Primeiro de Agosto 4-2 in a thrilling second leg, and 4-3 on aggregate. The Blood & Gold will face old foes Al Ahly, who edged ES Setif of Algeria. A repeat of the 2012 final, Ahly hosts the first leg on Friday, 2 November 2018 in the Egyptian Mediterranean resort city of Alexandria, with the return due for Tunis next week.
Ahead of the first leg final, CAFOnline.com sat down with Esperance Head Coach, Moine Chaabani (who was promoted to lead the first team after Khaled Ben Yahia was fired a few days to the semis clash) who had a few things to say about their qualification and the upcoming CAF Champions League final match;
Journey to the final
It wasn’t an easy journey at all. From Gor Mahia, the group stage, to finding ourselves against fellows Etoile du Sahel in the quarter finals. We had a difficult opponent at the semis in Primeiro de Agosto, who knocked out TP Mazembe. It wasn’t an easy qualification to the final. It was a combination of many hands, starting with our ex-coach Khaled Ben Yahia, who was with us for a long part of this journey. We worked hard and we’re thankful to be in the final. It’s true that, on paper, I’m the first person in charge. We are eight in the technical team working together so this is a combined task for all of us. I thank the club president who has reposed faith in a young group like us in such a delicate situation. Deep down, there was some element of fear, but we took responsibility, focused on our objective and I can say that we are half way through.
Esperance’s 100th anniversary in January
We don’t want this to create more pressure. The centennial is not just about the CAF Champions League. It is about remembering the people who have served the team, from the day it was founded till this day, that’s the main objective. Generations have passed and many have passed away, it’s a celebration of the life of Esperance. Winning the CAF Champions League in the centennial season would be the cherry on the cake.
Ahly having advantage via head-to-head
These are facts and not something made up. Al Ahly is a big team, used to playing in the final. They feel optimistic whenever they encounter Esperance, and they have every right to. It’s a North African derby. This is a great pride for us and for Africa to have two teams from North Africa in the CAF Champions league final. We are going to see two beautiful games with plenty of football and emotion and the viewers will have a wonderful experience. The most important thing in life is to make the effort, do your best and leave nothing to luck. We must do our best on the field and hopefully we’ll be rewarded for our efforts.
We played Al Ahly in the group stage in front of their fans and managed to hold them 0-0. It’s nothing new to Esperance playing against huge numbers of fans. We played in Cairo Stadium before with more than 90,000 fans present. It’s true that this will give Al Ahly a huge advantage but if we stay focused on the game, this will not affect us.