CAPE TOWN — Association Sportive Kaloum (ASK) is not a name that rolls off the tongue for South African football fans, but they will know a whole lot more about the Guinea champions when Orlando Pirates go to battle in their African Confederation Cup (Caf) playoff tie against the west Africans.
Although based in the Guinea capital of Conakry, ASK have been playing their Caf matches out of Bamako in Mali over fears of the spread of the Ebola virus. That is where they will likely take Orlando Pirates for the first leg of their tie and where they have so far played to three 1-1 draws during their Champions League campaign.
ASK dropped into the Confederation Cup competition after losing to Algerian side USM Alger in the third round of the Champions League.
They caused a surprise by defeating powerful Côte d’Ivoire club Sewe Sport 3-2 on aggregate in their first tie, which included a 2-1 win in Abidjan.
The side played to a 2-2 aggregate score with Zambian side Zesco United in the next stage and won through 5-4 on penalties.
They were also competitive against the more fancied Algerians, losing 2-1 in north Africa and playing to a 1-1 draw at home in the second leg.
They managed to score in all six of those matches with Democratic of Congo forward Kabongo Kassongo grabbing four goals and emerging as an obvious dangerman for Pirates.
He was regarded as the best player in the Guinea Championship in the 2014 season when he helped the side claim their 12th national title.
The current side is coached by François Zahoui, who spent two years in charge of the Côte d’Ivoire national team after the exit of Sven-Goran Erikkson at the end of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Formed in 1958, they won their first league title seven years later and would go on to be a dominant force in Guinea football through the 1980s and 1990s.
Their continental achievements have been modest with many early exits, bar a run to the final of the now defunct Caf Cup in 1995 — the same year Orlando Pirates won the Champions Cup.
ASK lost to Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel in the decider 20 years ago, and could meet the same opponents again if they get past Pirates, the first leg being played on the weekend of May 15-17.
Aside from their 12 league titles, ASK have won six national cups but have made an indifferent start to the league season.