Johannesburg – Kaizer Chiefs arrived in the Comoros Islands on Friday afternoon looking to carry their recent winning streak in the domestic league into the CAF Champions League, where they have bombed out in the early rounds for two successive years.
Amakhosi face Volcan Club de Moroni this afternoon in the first leg of their preliminary clash.
It’s a relatively easy start for coach Steve Komphela and his men given the hosts are making their debut in this premier club competition, while the Glamour Boys are no strangers to continental football.
In Komphela, Chiefs have a coach with enough experience – having been involved in the national team set-up in the past – ahead of what will build up to be strenuous trips around Africa.
He has also been a Bafana Bafana caretaker coach before and perhaps the Champions League will be reminiscent of his days in the hot seat, albeit in the interim.
Earlier last week, as four South African clubs were preparing for their African safari, only Mamelodi Sundowns – who were in Zimbabwe to face Chicken Inn yesterday – talked up their ambitions. Komphela was shielded and said very few words regarding the Champions League.
Bidvest Wits coach Gavin Hunt gave the mundane comments about their approach to their game against Light Stars from the Seychelles, also played yesterday.
Ajax Cape Town had to endure a tongue-lashing from SA Football Association (Safa) chief executive Dennis Mumble before eventually travelling to Angola to take on Sagrada Esperanca.
The Urban Warriors withdrew without consulting Safa a week ago, but were ordered back into the competition a few days later.
We can only rely on the results later this afternoon to determine Chiefs’ attitude in the Champions League this year because the match will not be televised.
Under Stuart Baxter, Komphela’s predecessor, this tournament seemed a mere distraction as he twice failed to get his men into the group stages.
Now SuperSport United coach Baxter, a two-time Premier League winner with Amakhosi, proved the competition was not a priority when he sent assistant coach Doctor Khumalo to Ivory Coast with an under-strength side to face ASEC Mimosas in the play-offs of the Confederation Cup.
Komphela hinted that he would ring the changes to give fringe players a run.
It’s allowed given the profile of Volcan, but should Chiefs progress in the competition, the coach’s starting line-up will give a clear indication of the club’s ambition in the Champions League.
Chiefs squad for the Champions League: Reyaad Pieterse, Brilliant Khuzwayo, Itumeleng Khune, Siboniso Gaxa, Erick Mathoho, Daniel Cardoso, Siyanda Xulu, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Willard Katsande, Camaldine Abraw, George Maluleka, Lucky Baloyi, Siphiwe Tshabalala, George Lebese, Kgotso Moleko, Bongani Ndulula, Siphelele Mthembu, Morgan Gould, Edward Manqele, Keegan Ritchie, Tsepo Masilela, Bernard Parker, Lorenzo Gordinho, Hendrick Ekstein, Sula Matovu, Ivan Bukenya.
– THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT