clubs out to rule africa

CAIRO - Just one week after conquering Africa at national team level, Egypt launch a challenge for continental club glory.

The yearly African Champions League kicks off this weekend with 24 first round, first leg fixtures and among six former champions in action are Zamalek from Cairo.

The 'White Knights' supplied a key cog of the Nations Cup-winning team in striker Amr Zaky, who scored four goals for Egypt at the biennial tournament alongside Hosny Abd Rabou and Mohamed Aboutraika.

Goalkeeper Mohamed Moncef and defenders Mahmoud Fathallah and Tarek al-Sayed were other Zamalek members of a 23-strong Pharaohs squad that defeated Cameroon 1-0 in the Afcon final last Sunday for a record sixth title.

Now they must swap the international media spotlight of Ghana for Kigali, capital of Rwanda and home to military football club APR. And experienced coach Ruud Krol will be acutely aware of the potential perils awaiting Zamalek, who have won the competition a record-equalling five times.

APR have embarrassed several big-name clubs at the Amahoro Stadium in recent years.

Club Africain of Tunisia (1991), Entente Setif of Algeria (1988), Enyimba of Nigeria (2003 and 2004), FAR Rabat of Morocco (1985) and Hearts of Oak of Ghana (2000) are other former champions in action.

FAR, a major disappointment last year, host Sporting Praia of the Cape Verde Islands while Enyimba, the only Nigerian winners of the Champions League, entertain Diables Noir of Congo.

Club Africain, back after a 11-year absence, travel to newcomers Saloum of Senegal, Hearts tackle experienced international campaigners FC 105 in Gabonand and Setif face SNIM in Mauritania.

Mamelodi Sundowns confront Miembeni in Zanzibar. The second South African challengers, debutants Platinum Stars, entertain Correction Services of Lesotho. Holders Etoile Sahel of Tunisia received a bye .

The second-tier African Confederation Cup also starts this weekend - Sapa-AFP