Football: Angola or Malawi club first up for SuperSport
SuperSport United of South Africa will begin their quest to reach a second successive CAF Confederation Cup final next year against Angolan or Malawian opponents.
A qualifying draw in Cairo Wednesday pitted Petro Luanda against African debutants Masters Security during February and the overall winners earn a March showdown with SuperSport.
The Pretoria outfit have a bye in the preliminary round and, after many long journeys en route to the 2017 final, they will welcome the close geographical proximity of whichever side they face in the first round.
SuperSport lost the title decider 2-1 on aggregate to Democratic Republic of Congo club TP Mazembe, leaving coach Eric Tinkler desperate for CAF success.
A midfield enforcer in the 1996 South Africa team that won the African Cup of Nations, Tinkler has been involved in three CAF club finals as a coach without winning any.
He was assistant coach of 2013 CAF Champions League runners-up Orlando Pirates and coach of the same club when they lost the 2015 Confederation Cup final.
Hopes that his luck would change last month were dashed when vastly experienced Mazembe kept SuperSport at bay in the second leg to force a goalless draw.
Victory over Petro or Masters would book Matsatsantsa (The trendsetters) a play-off against one of 16 CAF Champions League first round losers.
A key figure in the SuperSport CAF run this year was New Zealand-born striker Jeremy Brockie, whose 10 goals made him the leading scorer in the competition.
In other preliminary round matchups, Asante Kotoko of Ghana were drawn against CARA of Congo Brazzaville, pairing two of seven former African champions in the 54-club field.
Kotoko, winners of the African Cup of Champions Clubs (now CAF Champions League) in 1970 and 1983, lost the first Confederation Cup final 13 years ago to compatriots Hearts of Oak.
CARA's 1974 triumph was the only one by Congo in the elite African club competition and they have achieved nothing of note in many subsequent CAF appearances.
Other former African champions eyeing the $1.25 million (about one million euro) first prize include nine-time CAF title winners Zamalek of Egypt, who also had a bye into the first round.
The Cairo 'White Knights' will face Zimamoto of Zanzibar or African rookies Welayta Dicha of Ethiopia and should win comfortably.
Three-time African champions Raja Casablanca of Morocco against Africa Sports of the Ivory Coast would be an attractive tie, provided the Abidjan club eliminate Nouadhibou of Mauritania first.
Hafia of Guinea, another three-times champion, will meet Enyimba of Nigeria if they overcome the club that secures Benin's place in the competition.