South African club Orlando Pirates face an exhausting CAF Confederation Cup group schedule after the draw was made in Cairo on Tuesday.
Orlando Pirates face exhausting CAF Confederation Cup schedule
Happy Jele (L) will captain Orlando Pirates in their quest to become the first South African winners of the CAF Confederation Cup.
The Soweto Buccaneers were placed in Group B with JS Kabylie of Algeria or Royal Leopard of eSwatini, JS Saoura of Algeria and Al Ittihad of Libya.
Although trailing 1-0 after the first leg, 2021 runners-up Kabylie are expected to eliminate Leopard when a return match delayed by Covid-19 travel complications is staged in Algeria.
Assuming Kabylie succeed, Pirates must travel three times from the bottom of the continent to the top during February and March while their rivals need make the long journey only once.
Travelling in Africa is often challenging and there are no direct flights between Johannesburg and either Algiers or Tripoli.
Arriving in the north African capitals will not be the end of the road for Pirates as Kabylie play in eastern city Tizi Ouzou, Saoura in western city Bechar and Ittihad in eastern city Benghazi.
Competition rules state that when a journey within a country is 500 or more kilometres (310 miles), the visiting team must be flown to the match venue.
However, this rule is sometimes ignored by hosts hoping to gain a psychological advantage by forcing rivals to travel by road, often in cramped vehicles lacking basics like air conditioning.
Pirates overcame Diables Noirs of Congo Brazzaville 1-0 on aggregate in a qualifier thanks to a goal from captain and centre-back Happy Jele.
They then won 2-0 away to LPRC Oilers of Liberia, who withdrew from the second leg of the play-off believing it would be an expensive, fruitless journey.
TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo were demoted to the Confederation Cup after a shock CAF Champions League qualifying loss to South African side AmaZulu.
The Congolese then struggled to overcame another South African club, Marumo Gallants, in a play-off with the two-leg tie settled by an own goal.
Mazembe are in Group C with AS Otoho from neighbouring Congo Brazzaville, 2021 semi-finalists Coton Sport of Cameroon and Al Masry of Egypt.
Pyramids of Egypt, runners-up and semi-finalists in the last two editions, face three-time Confederation Cup winners CS Sfaxien of Tunisia, Zanaco of Zambia and Al Ahly Tripoli of Libya in Group A.
Renaissance Berkane of Morocco, who edged Pyramids in the 2020 final, meet Simba of Tanzania, former African champions ASEC Mimosas of the Ivory Coast and US Gendarmerie Nationale of Niger in Group D.
Group A: Pyramids (EGY), CS Sfaxien (TUN), Zanaco (ZAM), Al Ahly Tripoli (LBA)
Group B: JS Kabylie (ALG) or Royal Leopard (ESW), Orlando Pirates (RSA), JS Saoura (ALG), Al Ittihad (LBA)
Group C: TP Mazembe (COD), Coton Sport (CMR), Al Masry (EGY), AS Otoho (CGO)
Group D: Renaissance Berkane (MAR), Simba (TAN), ASEC Mimosas (CIV), US Gendarmerie Nationale (NIG)
Group winners and runners-up qualify for quarter-finals
Matchdays: Feb 13, 20, 27, Mar 13, 20, Apr 3