Pirates must shop for success
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Orlando Pirates made a lot of noise about doing well in the African Champions League this year and then flopped dramatically at the very first hurdle.
Their defeat to Recreativo Libolo was embarrassing for the club in its 75th birthday celebration year, as Pirates sought to stretch their trophy winning aspirations wider than just the South African football scene.
It effectively cost Julio Cesar Leal his job and posed some stark questions about South African league football’s progress over the years and the competitive spirit of domestic players.
It also came not long after an even more embarrassing elimination in the same competition two years previously - losing at the first hurdle to the minnows of Gaborone United.
But those are the negatives. The positives are that at least at long last someone came out and set a goal of doing well in African competition.
Finally a team made clear its sights are fixed higher than just the parochial ambitions that living on the bottom tip of the continent unfortunately seem to blinker our players with.
Achieving success in the Champions League has to be the ultimate aim for any South African club and 20 years of ambivalence about pan-African competition has not been a credit to this country.
Pirates might have had Angolan egg all over their faces but at least they showed some vision.
It is good, therefore, that they get another chance to participate in the Champions League next year.
Pirates will again represent the country in 2013, their success in the Premier Soccer League on Saturday securing their berth.
They have time to plan and they need to strengthen their squad now rather than later for the travails that lie ahead.
Registration of players for the 2013 Champions League happens in December, so any purchases made in the January 2013 transfer window will be ineligible.
Key is to shop now and to have a squad that is set to do service for the next 18 months, not the next year, nor the next six months.
It will need some judicious buying and some long term planning - two skills South African clubs seem woefully inept at.
PSL clubs always moan that they don’t do well in African competition because the registration dates are out of kilter with their own timelines but it is the same for clubs in the top achieving countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Ghana. And they seem to manage just fine.
Pirates will also have hopefully learnt other lessons too, like playing their home games at altitude rather than go for money from the Port Elizabeth municipality.
Taking their Libolo and Gaborone matches to the Windy City put financial considerations ahead of sporting ones - and that is never a good thing.
Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.
Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.