24 October 2014 15:50
AS Vita are bidding to end a 41-year wait for continental glory when they face ES Setif in the CAF Champions League final.
The club from DR Congo last won the tournament in 1973 and will be hoping to get off to a good start in front of their home fans when they contest the first leg of the final on Sunday.
On their only other appearance in the final of Africa’s premier club competition, back in 1981, AS Vita suffered a heavy defeat as Algeria’s JE Tizi-Ouzou recorded a 5-0 aggregate triumph.
However, AS Vita coach Florent Ibenge is faced with keeping a lid on rising expectation as his men prepare to face another Algerian side.
“Some are already thinking about the FIFA Club World Cup where V. Club can face Real Madrid,” Ibange said.
“But before thinking about that, we have the final first leg on Sunday. We mustn’t put the cart before the horse.”
Ibenge will be relying on his young striker Junior Yunus Sentamu, who scored the winning goal as AS Vita beat CS Sfaxien 2-1 in the second leg of their semi-final to seal their progression.
“I am enjoying my time with AS Vita and I think we have what it takes to stop our opponents ES Setif in the final,” the 20-year old forward said.
“After failing to win the DR Congo League title, winning the CAF Champions League title will be the best thing to happen to me as a player,” he added.
The Algerians are facing several injury worries as they also seek to win the competition for the second time, after they beat Iwuanyanwu Nationale in 1988.
Striker El Hedi Belameiri, the tournament’s joint-top scorer with six goals, is a doubtful starter after an injury sustained against MO Bejaia in the Algerian league.
The absence of the 23-year old would be a big blow for Setif after defender Hichem Aoulmi was ruled out with a knee injury. Coach Kheireddine Madoui is also sweating over the fitness of defenders Farid Mellouli and Abdelghani Demou, as well as midfielder Mohamed Billel Rait.
The Algerian government has moved to incentivise the club with an offer to refund ES Setif all its logistical costs if they manage to win the Champions League.
This was announced by the Algerian sports minister Mohamed Tahmi, who admitted that a refund was the best incentive they could manage.
“We will not give any bonuses to Entente Sportive Setif, but we will reimburse their travelling expenses should they ultimately win,” Tahmi told Algerian football website LeButeur.com.
“Entente Sportive Setif’s travelling expenditures in Africa will be reimbursed in the case of a final win in the CAF Champions League. We didn’t make any provisions for a special bonus for ES Setif in case of victory.”
Sunday’s first leg takes place at the Stade Tata Raphael in Kinshasa, with the return meeting scheduled for next Saturday at Stade Mustapha Tchaker in Blida.