MONROVIA, Montserrado – Continental football returns to Liberia today when Liberia’s First Division champion, LISCR Football Club, takes on 26-time Sudanese Premier League champions, Al-Hilal, in the first leg of the 2018 CAF Champions League preliminary round.
The match will be the first meeting between the two sides, who will battle at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 11. It’s expected to be a tough encounter, especially for LISCR Football Club, which hasn’t played a competitive football game in over five months.
The 2016-17 national league ended in August 2017 and has not yet resumed, as the Shipping Boys prepare for their crunch encounter.
LISCR began preparations in November 2017 and has also played a series of friendly encounters. Those included their participation in the 2017 LISCR Trust Tournament, the 2017-18 Liberia Diaspora International Tournament, and a preseason camp to Sierra Leone where they were engaged in three high profile test matches, including a tough test against the Sierra Leonean national team.
Without competitive football and going against an experienced side that has made 31 CAF Champions League appearances, there’s no doubt that LISCR will have a mountain to climb at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
LISCR’s Sudanese opponents have no shortage of cash and foreign players; their squad includes Brazilian striker Geovane Maranhao and Cameroonian goalkeeper Maxime Loic Feudjou. They also have some success in the CAF Champions League, including finishing in the semifinals five times and becoming finalists three times.
However, LISCR’s head coach Tapha Manneh hasn’t been carried away with the Sudanese club’s history. He told The Bush Chicken that money or big name isn’t going to play the game. Manneh said his team is fully prepared for the visitors and ready to get a positive result.
“Football is what you give on the pitch. It is a big match indeed, but my boys are prepared for it,” he said. “We aren’t afraid to meet them because we are both champions of our various leagues. We’ve been preparing for this match and we are ready for it. We will give our best on the pitch to get the needed result for the team’s administration that is making sure we participate in the competition and to the fans that keep believing in us.”
Manneh’s squad saw three key players departing the club for greener pastures. Newly signed winger Terrence Tisdell moved to Mozambican side Costa do Sol on a two-year loan deal, while striker Trokon Myers went off to Cameroon for trials with Union Douala. The club’s star striker, Christopher Jackson, departed in the last minute to attend trials with Belarusian club, FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk. The three major departures left a vacuum in LISCR’s squad and Manneh had to make a quick addition of the Liberian-Nigerian striker, Alloy Brown.
LISCR FC qualified for the continental competition after winning the 2016-17 Liberia Football Association First Division League with an undefeated record. The Shipping Boys managed 10 wins and 12 draws in 22 matches.
Their visitors, Al-Hilal, made their way to the competition after winning the 2017 Sudanese Premier League. Like LISCR FC, Hilal was undefeated in the 2017 Sudanese Premier League season. The Omadurman-based club managed 23 wins and 11 draws from the 34 matches played during the 2017 season.
The Sudanese team arrived in the country on Wednesday, February 7 at 2:00 p.m. via the Roberts International Airport with a 32-man delegation.
Match officials touched down the country via the James Spriggs Payne Airfield in Sinkor, coming from Guinea-Bissau. Gilberto Antonio Dos Santos will serve as the center referee while Firmino Bassafim and Aderito Maria Barbosa Da Silva will operate as the assistant referees. The match will be commissioned by Joel Barros of Cape Verde. Reinaldo Domingo Barbosa will serve as the match’s fourth official.
Featured photo by T. Kla Wesley Jr.