Tumo Mokone

PSL clubs seek African glory

2010-02-12 17:00
Sport24 columnist Tumo Mokone (File)
Tumo Mokone

Another year, another attempt by South African clubs to clinch glory in Africa, as three Premier Soccer League clubs hit the road this weekend. Another year? Perhaps not, since 2010 has been cited as a special year for South African football – a year of achievement.

The World Cup this year is not only bringing honour to SA but is expected to boost the country’s football structures, and to boost the confidence of players and coaches. Though SA football enjoys the largest sponsorship on the continent more sponsors are said to be knocking on the doors of SAFA and PSL.

This early in 2010, the onus falls on SuperSport United, Orlando Pirates and Moroka Swallows to prove the case of the vaunted new attitude of South African football. Pirates and United begin the new season of the African Champions League away to Gaborone United and Mbabane Swallows on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Botswana and Swaziland leagues are still semi-professional and losing against the paperweight clubs from those countries will simply ground to halt all the ambitious plans for local soccer this year. Pirates and United are under pressure to show why they represent the richest league in Africa. Failure in Gaborone and Mbabane is therefore not an option, that is if we are dead serious about plans to raise the standard.

Last year SA teams habitually failed to reach Champions League’s lucrative last-eight mini-league stage, with SuperSport United and Ajax Cape Town falling in the first round to Ugandan and Zimbabwean clubs. I am not suggesting that football in those countries cannot compete internationally. My point is that well-sponsored PSL who can afford to import playing and coaching talent do not have business losing to clubs which are not ranked anywhere in Africa.

According to a former Pirates development player who now stars for Gaborone United, Vincent Phiri, Pirates “will receive a rude awakening” tomorrow. Phiri, 25, who is also a Botswana international midfielder, describes hosting Pirates as an honour but says they have the beating of the Soweto giants.

This year Pirates has played three league games, scoring just two goals when they beat AmaZulu 2-0 in the third match. Such form can give any underdog hope for an upset. Pirates significant improvement against AmaZulu, but they will want to be outright dominant in Gaborone, to send a clear message about their intention this season.

Incidentally, Pirates are the only South Africa team to win this competition, when it was known as Champions Cup, in 1995. Those days the championship did not carry any prize-money, a far cry from today’s $1.5 million (about R11.5m) for the winner, and $1 for the runner-up. However, the biggest prize for winning the Champions League is the ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup, where the first prize is $5 million (R32m).

Spain’s Barcelona are 2009 world champions. Africa’s representative, TP Mazembe of DR Congo, found the competition too hot and finished sixth in the seven-team team tournament hosted in Abu Dhabi. However they won $1 million for their troubles. Add the $1.5m from winning the Champions League, the Congolese club sat pretty in 2009.

 The message is clear: the likes of Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United will never brush shoulders with super clubs like Barcelona in an official match unless they win the Champions League and qualify for FIFA club world cup. The quest for that goal should start in earnest this weekend.

Meanwhile, Moroka Swallows’ excursion to Mauritius is for the second important CAF Confederation Cup. They visit little Pamplemousses SC to kick-start their campaign for the $1 million first prize. I tip the Birds to win and return home to fix their messy run in the Absa Premiership.

Tumo writes exclusively for Sport24.

Disclaimer: 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.


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