Morocco: Raja's Miracle of 1999

Moroccan giants Raja has seven CAF titles to their name. Of which, the Greens of Casablanca have won the prestigious CAF Champions League on three occasions.

The Green Eagles first won the then African Cup of Champion Clubs in 1989. They emerged winners of the first edition rebranded CAF Champions League in 1997 and claimed their third two years later.

Raja started their 1999 campaign with an away 1-0 defeat to Senegal's ASEC Ndiambour. But they responded with an astounding 4-0 victory in Casablanca to reach the next round.

In the eighth finals, Raja had to do it the tough way. A home 2-1 victory over Djoliba of Mali in Casablanca was followed by a same scoreline defeat in Bamako forcing the game to penalties. After a lengthy tensed shootout, Raja won 7-6 to reach the mini-league stage.

Raja were drawn in Group A with Egyptian giants Al Ahly, Ghana's Hearts of Oak and Nigeria's Shooting Stars. At that time, only the group winners proceeded to the final.

The Green Eagles started the group stage in the best possible way, winning all their first three games by the same result, 1-0. That included two home wins over Hearts of Oak and Shooting Stars in Casablanca, and a famous away one over Al Ahly in Cairo. Despite failing to win any of their remaining three matches, the perfect start was enough for Raja to top the group. A 1-0 defeat to Shooting Stars in Ibadan was followed by a goalless draw with Hearts of Oak in Accra. And a 1-1 draw with Al Ahly in Casablanca meant Raja headed to the final once again.

But it looked as if they spared all the excitement for the final. Against Tunisia's Esperance, the first leg in Casablanca ended in a barren stalemate. For the return at the El Menzah Stadium in Tunis, Esperance were awarded a penalty that saw Raja's iconic defender Abdul Latif Grindo sent off. At that point, everything seemed in favour of the Tunisians. But Raja goalkeeper Mustapha Chadili rose to the occasion saving the spot kick and producing several brilliant saves as the game ended in a goalless draw. Penalties it went. Chadili's heroics continued, saving Esperance's last kick from goalkeeper and skipper Chokri El Ouaer, as Raja won 4-3 to conquer the continent for the third time.

Despite not winning the CAF Champions League since, Raja has added some more CAF titles, the last of which being the 2018 Total CAF Confederation Cup and the 2019 Total CAF Super Cup. Now they are dreaming of a fourth title in the premier continental club competition.

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