For What the CHAN Represents, Morocco Would Be Worthier — And Surer — Champions on Sunday
Going into their second CHAN final, five years after losing their first, Mali could legitimately expect to be reckoned as favourites.
And maybe they might have been, if their opponents weren’t reigning champions Morocco. The Atlas Lions are also readying themselves for a sophomore appearance in the final, and it would be no big surprise if they win it. Actually, that would be in keeping with the CHAN’s norms, its reputation for rewarding those countries whose clubs make the biggest strides in continental football.
Only four nations — DR Congo (twice), Tunisia, Libya and Morocco — have ever won it, three of whom (all but Libya) have been among the four most successful in African inter-club competitions — with a total of five Caf Champions League and/or Caf Confederation Cup titles each — since the CHAN begun in 2009.
The only member of the latter distinguished quartet not to have won the CHAN is Egypt, but the Pharaohs have never been at the CHAN. Just once have they qualified — also the only time they tried to qualify — and, even on that occasion, Egypt declined the opportunity to appear at the finals.
Had they, at any point in the CHAN’s 11-year history, turned up for the party — riding on the strengths of Al Ahly and Zamalek, Caf’s most decorated clubs — Egypt would almost certainly have provided further proof to buttress this argument.
No worries, though; Morocco would.
They’ve been the best team at this edition, without a doubt, and in top-scoring, five-goal forward Soufiane Rahimi, there is a man lethal enough to deal Mali’s title-winning ambitions a mortal blow.
The Eagles would need a miracle — maybe a shootout, if they are able to drag the contest that far, as they’ve successively and successfully done in their two previous knockout games in Cameroon — to steal this.
Don’t hold your breath, however.
Mali’s turn would come, and maybe a third final could crown the fine efforts the country and its clubs have invested in talent development (it has certainly yielded plenty at youth level already).
But Sunday should be Morocco’s moment once more; a moment that, once more, underlines what the CHAN is truly about.