Our story begins on a cold Thursday morning in January 2024.
Maybe robots have taken over.
Maybe they haven’t. I don’t know. This story isn’t about that.
The point being, we’ve holidayed several years in order to have a unique playing environment.
Before we introduce our manager and starting club, let’s briefly look at the continental results in the intervening years.
CAF Champions League & Confederations Cup (2020-23)
First things first. Holidaying out did not lead to any new teams becoming eligible.
Raja Casablanca claimed the 2020/21 title, beating ES Tunis on penalties in the final.
In 2021/22, TP Mazembe defeated Al-Ahly, 2-1 (aet).
We nearly had a newly-eligible team in 2022/23, but Pyramids defeated Al-Ahly on penalties after a scoreless draw.
TP Mazembe also claimed the 2022/23 Confederation Cup — Africa’s counterpart to the Europa League, which had previously been won by Orlando Pirates (2020/21) and CS Sfax (2021/22). Just like in the Europa League, the Confederation Cup has a tremendous mix of clubs, with early rounds taking you all over the continent. To both the nooks and the crannies. (During my tenure at Cape Coast Mysterious Dwarfs in the Bloggers Joint Save, we played a Confederation Cup First Round tie in Mogadishu — which is lovely in September.)
Generally speaking, the winners of all CAF-related leagues qualify for the Champions League, with the runners-up from the top 12 leagues also gaining entry. The Confederation Cup generally consists of the domestic Cup winners or runners-up in each league; however, for the top 12 leagues, the league positions would go to the teams placed 3rd-4th.
Before going any further, I should note that there may be an issue in-game with how FM itself pulls qualifying clubs from nations who play on a calendar-year basis.
To explain the issue, consider Sweden. The 2020 Allsvenskan table determines which clubs qualify for the 2021-22 European campaign.
The CAF competitions should work the same for nations whose domestic leagues run on a calendar-year basis. But, the CAF competitions seem to draw teams from nations these nations based on where they sit in the table when the first qualifying round is drawn, in late summer.
You can see the immediate concern. Frankly, I don’t think this will be a significant issue in the save. If it is a problem, it will affect both my clubs and the AI. And, in the narrative that will unfold, I will simply blame corruption/favoritism at CAF — which, given the recent 5-year ban levied against CAF President Ahmad Ahmad, will not be the most far-fetched narrative component of the save.
2022 World Cup
As noted in the introductory post, one of my goals will be to win the World Cup with as many African nations as possible.
The immediate question being, how did African clubs fare at the 2022 World Cup?
Mali and Ghana reached the quarterfinals, and were joined by Algeria and Senegal in the Second Round.
The semifinalists were all European, however, with Germany winning the title on penalties over Italy. Which is incredibly boring, I know. We’re going to need to do something about this.
And now…finally. The stage is set. Our hero is in the wings, waiting for his cue...
Leaving the Highlands? Perhaps the best choice I could ever make.
A dead-end town. Literally and figurately. No prospects, not after the “unpleasantness” at the “Maiden Voyage,” the yacht-based gentlemen’s club anchored just offshore.
The struggle to get a paying job in football was only part of the problem. Do you know how many 30 year-olds in the Highlands want to chase that dream, in this economy, after their initial professional aspirations fell by the wayside? Far too many.
My plan to simply get away from it all seemed like a sound one at the time.
Buckfast has a way of making even the worst ideas seem reasonable.
But, where to go? As far away as possible. To keep anyone from finding me easily, I decided to pick at random.
Greece? Not random enough. Way too predictable.
Thailand? No, to properly enjoy Bangkok you need mates. Of which I have none.
But…yes. That’s the ticket. The last place anyone would ever think to look for me. First class seat? Why not? I’ve no intention of paying the credit card bill.
One week later and I’ve settled into something of a routine. A quiet life. Freedom. Late nights, mixing with the locals. Some casual bravado about my past, as I enjoy an anonymous life in a city where no one knows my name.
But in almost every city in the world, someone knows football. And someone here knew my name.
Well, not my name. His name. The name we share. It isn’t my fault that my parents gave me this name.
But it probably is my fault that after a few drunken boasts, and a (shortlived) case of mistaken identity thanks to my accent…that somehow I find myself stepping back onto the football pitch much sooner than I expected.
In the most unlikely of places. No one actually thinks I’m the Brendan Rodgers, mind you. But my rogue-ish charm, misplaced self-confidence, and thick Scottish accent seem to have convinced the Board that I’m the next Alex Ferguson.
That’s right, the one and only Scottish Brendan Rodgers returns, and he’s managed to drunkenly blag his way into a job with Étoile Filante, a truly historic club which hails from Lomé, the capital of Togo and its largest city.
Founded in 1932 as Étoile Filante de Lomé, the club was administratively dissolved and merged with 2 other clubs from the capital in 1974, to be reborn as Déma Club de Lomé, only to be again dissolved before being resurrected in the 1990s as Étoile Filante du Togo.
At the height of its powers, Etoile Filante reached the 1968 CAF African Cup of Champions final against TP Englebert (now TP Mazembe), losing 6-4 on aggregate. The club last played in continental competition after its resurrection in the 1990s, but has fallen on hard times and suffered tragedy in 2011 when six people died en route to a match.
Expectations are rock-bottom after the club’s prior manager guided them to the bottom of the table at the halfway point — 9 points from 12 matches? Not good enough. Pack it in, son.
Delusions of grandeur sparkle in young Brendan’s eyes, as his accent befuddles the alarmingly-young 23-man squad.
Finances? Best not think about that. Take care of results on the pitch, and those will sort themselves out. Maybe.
Fail to take care of business? Well, our 171 season ticket holders might have something to say about it.
At any rate, we’ve got a match in 3 days’ time and an 8-game winless streak in need of breaking.
Let’s get to work.