'Romario Baggio'-led Malagasys seek historic CAF Cup victory

Jean Romario Baggio Rakotoarisoa is a footballer with an eye-catching name who hopes to lead Malagasy club Fosa Juniors to a historic CAF Confederation Cup success in Morocco this weekend.

The 23-year-old captain converted a stoppage-time penalty kick last weekend to seal a 2-0 play-off first leg win over Renaissance Berkane of Morocco in the Indian Ocean island.

If Fosa emerge victorious on aggregate after the return match they will become the first club from Madagascar to secure a place in the group phase of a CAF competition.

The outcome could hinge on Fosa being able to score in Berkane, as one goal for them would leave 2018/2019 Confederation Cup runners-up Berkane needing at least four to survive.

Renaissance reached the play-off round by defeating Ashanti Gold of Ghana 2-0 in Morocco, and a repeat of that result would force the tie against Fosa into a penalty shootout.

While Berkane started the CAF season in the Confederation Cup, Fosa were among 16 Champions League first round losers who dropped to the second-tier competition.

They were demoted after losing 3-1 away to five-time African champions TP Mazembe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a repeat of that scoreline would take them past Berkane.

Rakotoarisoa owes his striking name to the fondness his father had for two stars of the 1994 World Cup, Brazilian Romario and Italian Roberto Baggio.

"My father loved those footballers having watched them during the 1994 World Cup in the United States," Rakotoarisoa told the Malagasy media.

"I was born two years after that tournament and my dad wanted the names of the two stars included in mine. My mother did not agree initially, but eventually relented."

- Realistic chances -

Fosa are among seven east African clubs involved in the play-offs, with 16 group phase places up for grabs.

But only the Malagasys, Proline of Uganda and Bandari of Kenya have realistic chances of survival in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.

African debutants Proline twice came from behind to hold Al Nasr of Libya in a first leg moved from Benghazi to Egyptian city Alexandria for security reasons.

Given that a goalless or 1-1 draw in Kampala will take the Ugandans through, a side boasting the leading Confederation Cup scorer this season in five-goal Ivan Bogere are favourites.

Bandari trail Horoya of Guinea 4-2 after the first leg in Conakry, where giant Burkina Faso forward Aristide Bance scored a hat-trick.

The lack of a suitable venue in Indian Ocean city Mombasa means Bandari must travel 485 kilometres (300 miles) to Nairobi for the return match.

"Horoya are a good team with Bance particularly dangerous, but if we perform at our best we can qualify," predicted Bandari coach Bernard Mwalala.

The east African clubs staring elimination are Kampala Capital City Authority of Uganda, Young Africans of Tanzania, Gor Mahia of Kenya and Cote d'Or of the Seychelles.

Young Africans and Cote d'Or visit Egypt having lost to Pyramids and Al Masry respectively while Kampala and Gor are in trouble after only drawing at home.

There are 15 second legs scheduled for Sunday and the group line-up will be completed two days later when ESAE of Benin defend a 1-0 lead when they host Generation Foot of Senegal.

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