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Mali: Everything you need to know about the resumption of Ligue 1

Mali: Everything you need to know about the resumption of Ligue 1

The new season of Ligue 1 Orange Mali gets underway this Wednesday, November 1. Four matches will kick off this new season of the Mali Championship version 2023/2024.A 16-club season, with a new rule, which will see four clubs relegated to the lower division. Sport New Africa takes a look at the season's major challenges, including the race for the title, the outsiders, the fight for survival and the record to be beaten.

Mali's Ligue 1 is back.From this Wednesday, November 1, 2023 until May 2024, the 16 clubs of the Ligue 1 soccer championship will be competing against each other.

The favorites

Stade Malien (20 titles), Djoliba AC (14 titles) and AS Real (4 titles) are the favorites in Mali's Ligue 1. The championship title has been the preserve of the 3 teams since the championship's inception in 1980. Holders AS Real de Bamako lifted their 4th Malian championship trophy on July 9.

When it's time to put on their boots again, the Scorpions are not in a serene mood. With a largely reshuffled squad, the results of their preparations have been mixed.Added to this, they were eliminated in the second preliminary round of the CAF Champions League by Mauritanian side Nouadhibou.Nouhoum Diane and his players will therefore only have the Ligue 1 championship and the Malian Cup to play for. With a young, high-potential squad that includes Raye Cissé and Nouhoum Cissé, the Scorpions will be constantly on the move.

The Scorpions will be under constant pressure from Djoliba AC. The Reds, runners-up in Mali's Ligue 1, are aiming to reclaim the trophy at the end of the season after losing out last year. To this end, Djoliba AC have put together a new team, with players who are mostly regulars in the national championship, including Aboubacar Diarra aka Senior, who played a decisive role in the Reds' 14th title in 2022. In addition to this year's league's best player, there's another returnee, Zoumana Simpara (league's top scorer in 2021).Ivan Minaert, the Reds' Belgian coach, knows he has no room for error.

In addition, Stade Malien must also be included in Mali's Ligue 1.

In transition, Les Blancs de Bamako, now coached by technician Sekou Seck aka Backo, have rediscovered the color and efficiency they lacked last season and the season before. In addition to this attacking realism, the team has rediscovered its key players, notably captain Frank Tiessé from Côte d'Ivoire, who had been losing momentum, reinforced by youngsters from the training center (Lassine Kouma, Abdoul Salam, etc.) who have also come of age. An intelligent mercato to add value to the squad, with the signing of Daouda Coulibaly (already the author of 4 goals, 3 penalties and 2 assists in official matches) and Ibrahim Traoré (2 goals). Both new arrivals this year and already decisive in qualifying for the Confederation Cup finals.

Day 1 Fixtures

The Outsiders
In addition to the 3 clubs, a number of other teams are dreaming of playing spoilsport in Mali's Ligue 1 this season.Baraoueli's AS Bakaridjan, who have held their own in recent years, have lost their top scorer and last season's top scorer to Mauritania.But Baye Bah's men have been making steady progress over the years.Apart from AS Bakaridjan de Baraoueli, there's also USC Kita. However, the Kita club's ambitions have been hampered by the recent difficulties experienced by its president, preventing the 2022 vice-champions from being very active on the pitch. Niarela's Onze Createurs, on the other hand, are banking on stability. Talented players have replaced the departures of the team coached by Djibril Dramé, who may be away from his club.He may be away for a month, as he is due to accompany Soumaila Coulibaly to Indonesia for the U17 World Cup. Next May, all these clubs will be aiming to secure one of the two tickets to the Champions League or the CAF Confederation Cup.

Who will be the surprise team?

Mali's Ligue 1 is always full of surprises, and the favourites before Matchday 1 are not always the smiling ones when the final whistle blows on Matchday 2.  AFE is proof of this.Last year, the Académiciens upset the odds by finishing in an unexpected 6th place, just 4 points off the podium. The club, led by Malian Seran Diabate and Senegalese Diomansy Kamara, boasts a young and talented squad. With Alain Tiemelé, a valiant technician, on the bench. Despite having already sold a number of youngsters, most recently Adama Koné, who transferred to Stade de Reims this year, the Cadémiciens can also aim for the top spot.

Us Bougouni have overhauled their squad, with several major arrivals and a few departures. All under the guidance of a new, experienced coach, Birama Konate. The latter is known for having coached several Ligue 1 sides.US Bougouni's return to Ligue 1 also created a sensation, with 11 wins and the league's second-best attack with 39 goals. The Bougounikas may have lost their coach, but they retained their top scorers, Youba Coulibaly, Moctar Cissé and Amadou Haidara. Between them, they scored over 90% of US Bougouni's goals.

Nor should we forget AS Black Stars. The club from Badalabougou is known for knocking out the favourites and revealing strikers. Mamadou H Camara, the league's top scorer in 2021, Cheickne Doumbia in the top 5 goaleadors in 2022 and Banou Cissé, 3rd in the year's rankings. They all played the leading roles among the league's top scorers under the control of owner Seydina Oumar Dia, who brought promising young striker Mamadou Doumbia from Bamako's U17 team. This year, the club has been strengthened by other talented youngsters. US Bougouba can now look forward to a great season.

Struggle for survival

The Koulikoro champions, who will be promoted to the top flight in 2022 in Sikasso, are not looking for a repeat of the elevator ride they enjoyed two years ago. When they had their first experience.Their ambition this year is to stay in Mali's Ligue 1. The same goes for promoted Arsenal de Talent Sportif from Koro. Their promoter is Housseni Guindo. An alumnus of the JMG center, he is known for having helped hatch young players such as Néné Dorgelès and Kamory Doumbia. All are dreaming of the top of the table. The 12 highest-ranked clubs at the end of the season will remain in the Elite.

Records to be broken

The start of the French Ligue 1 championship also provides an opportunity to look back at some of the records set in previous editions of the championship, which have yet to be beaten. These include the record holder for the number of goals scored in a single season. Soungalo Diakité scored 25 goals for Stade Malien in the 2001-2002 season. On September 14, 2002, on the final day of the championship, the gunner scored a quintuple against Mamahira de Kati, who were thrashed 7-1 by Stade Malien. This XXL performance enabled Soungalo Diakité to wipe out the record set the previous year in 2001 by his former team-mate Mamadou Kanté (23 goals) and become the highest scorer in a single season in the history of the championship since the introduction of the single pool in 1998-1999. However, these teams should not forget to look down in the event of poor results. After all, with Ligue 1 down to 14 clubs next year, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th-placed teams will be relegated to Ligue 2.

Other records to beat
Most consecutive wins: Stade Malien de Bamako 2000-2001 (12 wins)

Most consecutive defeats: AL Farouk 2009-2010 (10 defeats)

Most wins: Stade Malien 2012-2013 (25)

Most defeats :Attar club 2012-2013 (24 defeats)

Longest unbeaten streak (44)

Stade Malien (2000-2001, 2001-2002)

Most points (68/78): Stade Malien de Bamako (2001-2002)

Lowest number of points (6/78)

Débo club de Mopti (2000-2001)

Largest victory: Djoliba-Sigui de Kayes: 9-0 (2004 season, Matchday 5)

Best unbeaten streak for a goalkeeper (10) :Aly Yirango (Day 1-10, 2011-2012 season)

Biggest points gap between first and second since the introduction of the single pool in 1998-1999 (20 pts)

2012-2013 season Stade malien (79 pts), Réal (59 pts)

Oldest player to play in the championship: Sékou Djénépo (36, 2014-2015 season)

Most titles for a player (7)

Top foreign scorer (18): Ivorian Jacques Koffi N'guessan of AS Réal (2004-2005)


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