Exactly three months after setting an unbeaten league record by winning the 2016-17 Liberia First Division League to book a place in the 2018 Confederation of African Football Champions League, LISCR Football Club has known the opponent in the preliminary round of Africa’s premier club competition.
In the draw held in Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday, December 13, the Shipping Boys were drawn against one of Africa’s heavy weight, Al-Hilal of the Sudanese Premier League. The Liberian champions might have hoped to meet a team at their level in the preliminary round to have a less ride to the first round, but the draw against the North African giants has given them a lot to do if they are to cross the preliminary round.
Hilal has been one of the best club on the African continent that is unfortunate to land the continental trophy. The North African side has made 31 appearances in the competition with five semifinals finishes and losing out in the 1992 final to current holders, Wydad Casablanca of the Morocco Botola Pro League. Their recent step closer towards the title was in 2015 when they got knocked out by USM Alger of Algeria in the semifinals.
Drawn against Hilal which is a 27-time champions of the Sudan Premier league is no doubt a mountain to climb for LISCR FC that will be making their third CAF Champions league appearance. However, the Shipping Boys might not be financially strong like the counterpart to sign top notch players, but they have shown to be ready for the encounter with their high level of preparation in the ongoing off season.
Despite winning the league unbeaten, the Gardnersville based club further strengthen their club with the signing of ten players after releasing few members of the squad that failed to make an impact during the season. While on vacation in the Gambia, their head coach Tapha Manneh signed a total of four high profile Gambians to beef up the squad. The former Gamtel boss acquired the signature of five-cap player of the Gambia senior national team, Bully Drammeh who has over participated in the CAF Champions League with Gambian club, Real de Banjul, central defender, Adama Sabally that won gold with the Gambia U17 in the 2009 U-17 African Cup of Nations, central defender, Harouna Jabang who also plays as a central defender. The versatile player was part of the Real de Banjul team that eliminated Barrack Young Controller in the 2015 CAF Champions League preliminary round and striker Mustapha Njie who was a key player in the home based Gambian national teams.
Apart from the four Gambians, Tapha Manneh was able to acquire the services of 2016-17 LFA first division joint top scorer, Amadiah Kawah, BYC trio, Mark Paye, Hilton Varney, and Kemoh Kamara and Benjamin Doe that was promoted from the feeder team of LISCR, Gardnersville Football Club.
Ever since his arrival in the country from his two-month vacation in his native Gambia in October, the tactician has conducted several training sessions with his team and played several friendly matches against mostly lower tier clubs.
With the level of preparation done so far, newly signed Gambian central defender Harouna Jabang is optimistic of LISCR advancing to the first round despite the weight of Al-Hilal and their huge fans base that most often fill up their 70,000 seater stadium during matches.
“We can beat them even with their huge fan based. And surely we can do it with the grace of Allah (God) and with hard work”, Harouna told LISCR media.