By Femi Adefioye, Lagos
Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions Rangers International Football Club of Enugu will begin their 2017 CAF Champions League campaign by visiting Algerian side JS Saoura.
The other Nigerian representatives in the league, Rivers United FC of Port Harcourt, will also be guests of AS Real Bamako of Mali in the competition’s preliminary round.
This is according to the 2017 CAF inter-club competitions’ draws for the preliminary and first rounds, which were conducted on Wednesday in CAF’s secretariat in Cairo, Egypt.
The Flying Antelopes will however face Egyptian giants Zamalek in the first round, if they qualify from the preliminary round.
Zamalek, who were runners-up in the 2016 competition and are veteran of many battles on the continent, had drawn bye into the first round.
Either Sony Nguema of Equatorial Guinea or Sudan’s Al-Merrikh awaits Rivers United if they see off the threats of the Malians.
Rivers United are making their debut in Africa’s premier club competition after finishing as runners-up in last season’s NPFL.
Title-holders Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa are among eight previous winners who will participate in the competition which will be in its 21st edition.
Only Al-Ahly (Egypt), TP Mazembe (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Enyimba (Nigeria) have staged successful defence since the 1964 launch of the competition as Africa Champion Clubs Cup.
Ahly (2005, 2006 and 2012, 2013) and Mazembe (1967, 1968 and 2009, 2010) have twice won back-to-back titles.
Enyimba, the only Nigerian club to conquer the continent in the premier club competition, triumphed in 2003 and 2004.
In the CAF Confederation Cup, Wikki Tourists of Bauchi are away to RSLAF of Sierra Leone, while Federation Cup champions FC IfeanyiUbah host Al-Masry of Egypt in the first leg.
The first leg matches of the fixtures will be played between Feb. 10 and Feb. 12, while the second leg will be played one week later.
Following the review of the CAF Champions League’s prize money, the champions will get a whooping sum of 2.5 million dollars (about N1 billion).
They will then get to play in the FIFA World Club Cup, where the prize money is also mouth-watering for a club from Africa.
The runners-up will receive 1.25 million dollars (about N500 million), while the semi-finalists will get 875,000 dollars (about N350 million).
The quarter-finalists will pocket 650,000 dollars (about N205 million), while the eight group stage qualifiers who fail to make the knockout stage will get 550,000 dollars (about N173 million) each.