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  1. Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. All football supporters have suffered the agony of hope. The "what could have been" moments. The heartbreak. The days when your **** of a striker couldn't hit water if he fell out of a ****ing boat. Barbosa at the Maracana, 1950. Messi in the final of the Copa America, 2016. Baggio in the World Cup final, 1994. Ghana at the 2010 World Cup. Bayern Munich in Barcelona, 1999. John Terry in Moscow, 2008. (Ok, if I'm being honest the last two were pretty frickin' beautiful and count among my favorite football memories. But, I digress...) For many, redemption comes in one form or another, some more glamorous than others. Titles won. Individual glories and accolades. The heartbreak simply another chapter in the broader narrative. For others, the heartbreak defines them. Haunts them. Overshadows all other accomplishments, triumphs and accolades. The moniker of the "nearly men" is applied, and supporters grow old thinking, "what if...?" This is the story of those teams. Uhh...well...another story about those teams... Since its inception in 1964, 25 different clubs have won the CAF Champions League. 19 teams have reached the Final, only to fall short: Amicale Sportive Dragons (1980. 1985) Al-Hilal Omdurman (1987, 1992) Shooting Stars (1984, 1996) Heartland (1988, 2009) Stade Malien (1965) Real Bamako (1966) Étoile Filante du Togo (1968) Simba FC (1972) Ghazl Al-Mehalla (1974) Enugu Rangers (1975) Africa Sports (1986) MC Oran (1989) Nkana Red Devils (1990) SC Villa (1991) Ashanti Gold (1997) Dynamos FC (1998) CS Sfaxien (2006) Coton Sport (2008) USM Alger (2015) This save will chronicle my attempt to bring glory to as many of these sides as possible. First of all, credit where credit is due -- the idea for this save originated with @smp20, who proposed it as a challenge during the FM15 cycle, related to the European Champions League. I've since been...err...somewhat obsessed with it. My first FMCU-documented attempt fizzled out early: [FM16] If You're Not First, You're Last. While success was only claimed in Malmo that year, that save laid the foundation for all that has come since. The second attempt was 116 pages of utter madness, spanning 18 months real-time, culminating in 2091 after claiming an obscene number of trophies with Hakan Telleus and his son, Gunnar Vikander. This was easily my favorite save of all time: [FM17] If You're Not First, You're Last (Redux). My third attempt is currently paused in the fall of 2044, where Jean Bleu has rampaged across Europe with multiple sides: [FM 18] If You're Not First, You're Last (Re-Redux). While I'm enjoying my time at Nantes in the save...I felt I needed to run this save in Africa, something I'd long thought about doing, but hadn't attempted. (Why Africa instead of South America? Asia? My daughter is Congolese, and my undergrad studies focused on sub-Saharan African politics with a particular emphasis on transitional justice in post-apartheid South Africa. The quote in the title is from Nelson Mandela.) As with before, there are generally no hard-and-fast rules beyond the concept of the save. On the club side of the shop... This is not a youth-academy-only save, even though I do enjoy developing youth and will usually focus on that. Rather, I will work within club-specific plans without any self-imposed transfer restrictions. I will leave on high -- once I've won the Champions League, I must move on. The only twist I'm adding for Africa is that I will stay on through the Club World Cup, to try my hand against the best clubs the other continents have to offer...and then I must move on. After my first club, I will only accept a position with one of the sides listed above, or a club that manages to join this elite (!?) group of "nearly men." Likewise, if a club manages to win the CL under another manager, they are removed from the challenge. On the international scene, there will be only one rule this time around -- win as many World Cups with an African nation as possible. After winning, I must move on to another African nation. And, as per usual, my saves tend to exist in a "multiverse" of sorts, so familiar faces may pop up (although they may come up in different contexts). In terms of the league setup, I have used @claassen's FM 18 African leagues (and competitions). However, to facilitate the "all African" approach to the save, I have removed foreign player limitations from the starting African leagues. If a club from a new country (e.g., Kenya) becomes eligible, the existing @claassen rules will apply. The idea here is to: (1) promote African youth, regardless of where they come from; and (2) allow me to support whatever national team I'm playing with, at my club side. The default starting leagues in Africa are the top divisions from: Algeria, Cameroon, DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In Europe, we have the top divisions from: Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. I've loaded all current international players, worldwide, and all players from clubs playing in European and African continental competitions. Tomorrow, we will meet our managerial hero... But before we do, let's take a quick look at the tracker I'll be using:
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