Pirates a shining light in Africa

2015-07-09 15:10
Nick Said (Supplied)

The question of why Orlando Pirates have excelled on the African club football scene in recent years compared to their compatriots is a vexing one.

It is nonsense to simply put it down to the fact that they are more ‘serious’ in their approach, though it has to be said the vigor with which they tackle their assignments, compared to their Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs, for example, should be admired.

Pirates play a crucial Group B clash in the African Confederation Cup against Egyptian side Zamalek on Saturday where they could take a giant step towards the semi-finals.

Their win away in Congo against AC Leopards a fortnight ago was another display of guts in the face of adversity and any win on the road in this competition is like gold.

Their run to the final of the Champions League in 2013 captured the imagination of country - even those who prefer gold and black to the skull and crossbones.

To fall short against Al Ahli is no disgrace and it was a campaign that took some of their boys and turned them into men.

There is no doubt the late Senzo Meyiwa’s game improved immeasurably on the confidence and experience he built in playing in adversity - his performance in saving two penalties in Lubumbashi against TP Mazembe is already the stuff of South African football folklore.

And therein lies the great benefit of competing in African club competitions, a fact acknowledged by most coaches.

Roger de Sa, who was coach of Pirates in that 2013 run, often speaks of the times spent sitting on an airport floor, shooting the breeze with his players and forming bonds that would knit the team together when their backs were against the wall.

You have to have the right personalities to make that work and Pirates did, and still do.

Pirates banded together for that campaign, they played with pride, but also too with intelligence.

They played in many ways a different brand of football to what they would on the domestic front, using Lennox Bacela as a number nine for other players to feed off.

They did not try to take PSL football onto the continent, but rather picked horses for courses and De Sa should be congratulated for that.

But since then there has been little to inspire and the fingers have again been pointed at clubs for not treating the continental game with respect.

Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns competed in the African Champions League this season and to be fair, both had very tough draws. Real stinkers.

Sundowns played TP Mazembe in the second round and despite winning 1-0 at home, lost 3-1 in Lubumbashi. Disappointing, but not catastrophic.

Chiefs is another matter. They wasted countless opportunities in the home leg against Moroccan side Raja Casablanca having fielded a near second-string to lose 1-0. They lost again away 2-0 when the fight had long left them.

Yes domestic were front of their mind in the run-in to the league championship - which they ended up claiming by 12 points - but they never approached the competition with much enthusiasm.

BidVest Wits, who competed in the Confederation Cup along with Pirates, were even more shameful.

Winning 3-0 from the home leg against minnows Royal Leopards from Swaziland, they played an inexperienced line-up in the second match and lost by the same scoreline, before going out on penalties. The cost of competing on the continent is well known and often put forward as an excuse for under-performance by clubs.

So my solution is simple. The teams to compete in the African club competitions are chosen by SAFA and not the PSL. They nominate to CAF who their entries will be for the following year.

South Africa is likely to have only one team in each competition in 2016 due to their under-performance in recent years.

So give those positions to clubs who want to compete. If Kaizer Chiefs win the league but don’t have the stomach for a Champions League campaign, give their place to the team who finishes second, or third, or fourth - basically the next highest placed side who wants to give it a go.

The same for the Confederation Cup, let teams who see the benefit enter, surely that is better than having clubs compete because they feel obliged to.

Nick Said is the Business Director at Mzanzi Football.

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.

Read more on:    orlando pirates  |  psl  |  nick said  |  soccer

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