Orlando Pirates Al Ahly CAF Champions League final
Posted: 11 November 2013 Time: 15:28
When Orlando Pirates qualified for the CAF Champions League Final, the country got abuzz with excitement and the recollections of the ‘Class of 95’ were repeated over and over again.
The country’s Sport and Recreation Minister, known for his big talk, entered the fray and boldly declared that ‘History chose Pirates, Pirates didn’t choose history’.
The final result didn’t prove him wrong …
Years and years came, and nothing happened for South African clubs in the CAF Champions League.
Since 2006, when a certain team from Orlando reached the semifinals of this competition, no other team in the PSL has done anything worth writing home about. The people of the land had lost hope of having any club carrying the flag with pride for them in Africa.
Excuses were always advanced for one failure, about this and what have you, mostly common in the South African football blame game.
Others cried about the standard of officiating, others about the calendar clash with CAF, others about the travelling, others about the away conditions … all under one umbrella of passing the buck.
But Pirates, after losing the League title to Kaizer Chiefs last season, headed for Africa determined to render those excuses exactly what they were.
Because of the low points ratio of the PSL teams in the CAF rankings, Pirates were forced to play a needless preliminary tie to qualify for the Champions League proper, while the big guns got a bye. Even the medium guns, in fact.
No matter, they got on with the job and their mission got underway.
And perhaps their belief went to another level too.
But this journey was by no means easy. It can never be. Who can forget the trip to DR Congo? It has been labelled as ‘the best game we never saw’.
Lubumbashi was set never to be overcome by the men from Soweto. On the day, no team would have won against TP Mazembe. No team. Perhaps they’re still wondering how did they get knocked out.
And Pirates didn't win the battle on the day. The officials did. Pirates won the war. Actually, they deserved medals for that triumph alone …
In truth though, it shouldn’t happen that a team that hasn’t played a League game in about five months can go on to beat the hell out of everyone in Africa. The Al Ahly side has aged, and this was the right moment to bury them.
Africa cannot be proud of herself with the Red Devils still dominating the continent, even at their worst. In their prime, Pirates failed to show Al Ahly what time it is. They were unsure of themselves in the first-leg, and allowed the men in red to go into the second-leg final with a psychological advantage of an away goal, and a draw.
By simply letting them get away with what they want you put yourself against the wall.
Pirates players and their technical staff know all too well that they’ve missed a glorious opportunity here. Al Ahly were there for the taking.
It may never come again that they get to play in the final of the continent’s top club competition, against a side whose country will be as war-torn as Egypt were/is and didn't have a League schedule in five months. And with their snail-paced players masquerading as the best in Africa.
Fikile Mbalula was right in saying that ‘History chose Pirates, Pirates didn’t choose history’, but only in the sense that history chose Pirates to set the benchmark again for the PSL clubs.
To make them also to believe that it can be done. It couldn't be done on the 10th of November, but is now a real possibility for the near future …
*Follow Thato on twitter @ThatoB_