Johannesburg – Orlando Pirates may have to do without new captain Happy Jele for the crucial African Champions League final second leg against Al Ahly this weekend due to suspension.
Jele received a yellow card after 79 minutes in Saturday’s 1-1 first leg at Orlando Stadium, in addition to the first caution he received in the semi-final second leg against Esperance of Tunisia on October 19.
This, according to the rules of the Confederation of African Football, should automatically rule him out of Sunday’s crunch tie in Cairo, which would be a blow for Roger de Sa’s team as Jele has been a crucial member and latterly leader in the Pirates defence.
Pirates administrator Floyd Mbele said on Sunday he was not certain if Jele was suspended as Caf would only send confirmation on Monday or Tuesday, but records show Jele was booked in each of Bucs’ past two continental games.
Caf rules governing the Champions League state clearly: “A player who receives two cautions shall be automatically suspended from playing the subsequent match in Caf inter-club competitions. This automatic suspension shall be communicated by the Secretariat to the concerned associations.”
This means Caf will first inform the SA Football Association if Jele – who according to records received a yellow card on 50 minutes in Tunis against Esperance – is indeed suspended, and Safa will have to write to Pirates to tell them he’s not eligible.
Jele’s possible absence will leave a huge void in the Pirates defence.
He was recently handed the captain’s armband following the Bucs hierarchy’s fallout with Lucky Lekgwathi, who made his return to the match-day squad for the first time in six weeks at the weekend.
Pirates may have to turn to Lekgwathi, who last played on September 22, to plug Jele’s gap at rightback, not least as he’s experienced and had played well before his fallout with the club top brass. But it is unclear if he would wear the captain’s armband.
While Pirates seek to ascertain if Jele is suspended, Ahly coach Mohamed Youseff seemed to know better, telling reporters at the post-match press conference in Orlando: “Both teams will be without certain players for the second leg, so it will be a different game altogether.”
For Ahly, leftback Sayed Mowab is thought to have been suspended as he, too, was booked at Orlando.
It is understood Youseff also thought Andile Jali would be ineligible this weekend, but records show the yellow card he received on Saturday was only his first since the group stages. According to Caf, bookings accumulated in the group phase fall away in the semi-final stage.
Meanwhile, Ahly have reportedly failed in their bid to take Sunday’s match to their revered 75 000-seat Cairo International Stadium.
The Egyptian giants will have to settle for Arab Contractors Stadium, which takes 60 000 spectators and has a poor pitch, FilGoal.com reported.
“All our attempts to change the match venue failed, so we had to inform Caf that Arab Contractors will host the match,” Ahly’s general manager Hassan Massoud was quoted as saying by the website. It’s unclear how many tickets would be made available due to continued political strife in the north African country.
Pirates, however, have yet to be informed officially where they will play, with three venues – the Cairo International, the Military Stadium and now the Arab Contractors – all having been mentioned as possible venues.
According to Caf rules, Pirates should have been told 10 days before Sunday where the match will take place.
Bucs leave for Egypt on Wednesday.