February 6, 2017 By Sahr Morris Jnr
Sierra Leone has been pitted against Senegal in the first round of the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying campaign. The continental competition is only designed for players who are playing in their country’s domestic league and qualifiers are arranged regionally. After the African Football governing body (CAF) conducted the draw last Friday, February 3rd in Libreville, Gabon, the home-base Leone Stars are scheduled to host the Lions of Teranga in Freetown on the weekend of 14-16 July in the first-leg, while the second-leg will take place the following weekend in Dakar. The winner of the double legged tie will face the winners of the Guinea-Bissau and Guinea clash in the second round, with the first leg billed to take place between 11 and 13 August, while the return leg would take place the following weekend.
Sierra Leone was eliminated from the 2016 tournament in the preliminary round by Mauritania, thanks to a 4-1 aggregate win. The Mauritanians won the first leg 2-1 at the Nouakchott Stadium and six days later they registered a 2-0 victory at the same venue.
Leone Stars chose to host their home leg in Nouakchott because Sierra Leone was unable to host international games due to the Ebola outbreak in the country, which forced an international ban on all football and sporting activities in the country then.
In 2014, Sierra Leone was eliminated from the qualifiers in their own backyard by next door neighbour Guinea. The Guineans forced Sierra Leone to a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium in Freetown, as the first leg in Conakry ended in a goalless draw.
Senegal on the other hand has participated in the final phases of CHAN in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2016. In 2014, they were eliminated by Mauritania (1-0 and 0-2) and in 2016, it was the Guineans who pushed them away.