MAZEMBE?: MEDEAMA HOLD ALL THE ACES

The Yellow and Mauves are on a mission to stun the continent and, when optimally psyched, they’d take some stopping

Perhaps you shed a tear for Ghanaian side Medeama when you heard on Tuesday that they’d drawn, among others, the mighty TP Mazembe for the 2016 Caf Confederation Cup’s group phase.

Well, if you did (and you really shouldn’t have), wipe it.

The prospect of taking on a club that’s conquered Africa five times isn’t as frightening as it seems. Medeama’s domestic and internal struggles, though well-documented, haven’t stopped them from punching well above their weight in Africa this season. En route to this considerably advanced stage, they knocked out three opponents, the last of them, South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns, producing the most resounding thud.

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A previous article on this site hailed Medeama for bringing down Sundowns and, rather than consider Mazembe one giant too huge to fell, this could just be an opportunity for the Tarkwa outfit to claim another round of applause, this time probably more deafening.

Mazembe, in some respects, aren’t very unlike Sundowns. Bankrolled by a rich owner, success never seems to dry up for Les Corbeaux, and they have remained a force to be reckoned for decades. Medeama themselves have a good source of financial backing, of course, but they aren’t anywhere near the heights Mazembe occupy.

Still, that doesn’t quite take the David-versus-Goliath feel off the pair’s two group meetings, and Medeama have an extra stone in their sling when they face the 2010 Fifa Club World Cup finalists. Mazembe are currently a house in crisis, albeit over matters unrelated to actual football — well, not the team itself but its president, the remarkable Moise Katumbi Chapwe.

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Medeama SC will be facing TP Mazembe in the group stages

For a man whose image is so inextricably entangled with his club’s, it’s not impossible to imagine Katumbi’s ongoing woes — he’s the embattled Congolese opposition leader and presidential candidate who’s currently facing charges of hiring mercenaries as part of a plot against the state, if you’ve been following the news — affecting Mazembe’s fortunes, even if only slightly. Then again, if Berekum Chelsea, in their maiden Caf Champions League campaign back in 2012 could take four points off Mazembe, why can’t a similarly relatively well-resourced outfit like Medeama?

It’s really refreshing with what attitude Medeama are approaching these six potentially history-making games, with the club —  through its Chief Executive Officer, James Essilfie — even citing their own self-generated motives for excelling against all three group opponents.

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Young Africans coach Hans Van Der Pluijm will have an idea what is it like to play in Ghana

“We are happy with the draw,” Essilfie told Cafonline.com. “This draw will motivate us and I’m sure we can go far.

“TP Mazembe are not as strong as before,” he remarked about the most feared of the trio, before touching on the other two.

“MO Bejaia eliminated Ghana champions Ashantigold [from the early stages of this year’s Champions League], and we hope to avenge the defeat. Young Africans are being coached by Hans Van der Pluijm, a former coach of Medeama, and playing against them will be interesting.”

Having inspired themselves thus, Medeama’s failure shouldn’t be for a lack of effort or guts. Come June 17 when they trek to Lubumbashi for the opener against Mazembe, they’d be raring to prove their ticket to this stage wasn’t pilfered.

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