The South African football fraternity is abuzz with excitement only hours before the first of the two most important matches on the African continent. Orlando Pirates, the only team in the country to have gotten as far as the final of the CAF Champions League, let alone lift this prestigious cup, will be hoping to repeat the feat achieved by their predecessors in 1995. They square off against their Egyptian counterparts, Al Ahly, seven time winners of the cup at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The match is meant to start at six-thirty in the evening local time.
Mohammed Youssef, the head coach at Al Ahly who took over the reigns at the club this year in April from his former boss, Hossam Al-Badry, says that he has not thought about anything else since they qualified for the final. He is confident however despite the record they have against Pirates in this competition this year. In the group stage, the South Africans stunned them 3-0 in their own backyard and the return leg ended in a draw. Commenting on this, Youssef contends that not much should be read into this as these were group stages and all they had been playing for was to qualify for the semis which they did despite the loss. This time, he adds, there can be only one winner and he hopes very much that it will be his Egyptian outfit.
On the other hand, the coach of Orlando Pirates, Roger de Sa admits that while, Al Ahly are a big team in African football, his team will go to play with “high intensity” in order to achieve a result that will put them in a good stead when they travel to Egypt in the return fixture on the 29th of November. He further reveals that he has no fitness concerns apart from one of the scorers in their win over Al Ahly, Thandani Ntshumayelo who is nursing a foot injury. Roger goes on to add that because they are playing at home, they need to get a good result so that they won’t have anything to worry about when they play in Egypt about a month from now.
Despite the cool both coaches attempt to show, it is important to note the amount of pressure they are working under and what a win in this final will mean for each of them. On the one hand, the Egypt coach has to prove that he is worth more than being the shadow of his former boss with whom he had worked for four years. He has to be his own man. De Sa, on the other hand, will probably be out to prove that the run which he has enjoyed since joining the Soweto Giants is worth more than a temporary phase. He is most likely willing to translate that into the biggest club trophy in African football. So we wait! With bated breath!