KAMPALA. Vipers’ guests are not your usual preliminary tourists. They arrive at St Mary’s Stadium Kitende today with a certain swagger and history rich enough for the hosts to pay closest attention.
For starters, Al Merreikh arrive with a 2-1 lead from the first leg of the Caf Champions League thanks to Bakri Almadina and Ibrahim Altag’s goals. Daniel Sserunkuma got the consolation that gave Vipers a lifeline heading into the December 5 return leg.
That is not all. Merreikh are one of the top clubs perennially competing on the continent, something Vipers – the three-time Ugandan champions - are learning.
Actually, they have twice finished in the last eight in this tournament, the most recent being semifinalists in 2015.
In achieving those feats some Uganda clubs have fallen victims along the way. SC Villa, KCCA, Express, URA and – just last week Vipers - have all cracked under the Sudanese.
As a matter of fact, out of 10 times Al Merreikh have encountered Ugandan opposition in Champions League and Confederation Cup, the Sudanese have come up top on eight occasions. That is the statistic Vipers will hope to alter in the return leg. And not that they are short of inspiration!
Vipers have KCCA and Villa to look up to given the mentioned successful skirmishes with the Sudanese. At their peak en route to the Champions League finals in 1991, Villa called on a post-match penalty shootout to edge the Sudanese 8-7.
KCCA also overpowered Merreikh 3-2 on aggregate in 2014, avenging a 2009 painful defeat that brought to an end a fairytale run that had seen George Nsimbe’s side also eliminate South Africa’s SuperSport United. But to do that Vipers will have to pay better attention to Bakri Almadina and company than they did in the first leg.
The 31-year-old Bakri, who plays for the Sudanese national team; brings invaluable experience to the visitors. He scored the opener in Khartoum from a penalty spot.