Johannesburg – Fresh from again showing his appetite for a scrap in the Soweto derby, Andile Jali is raring to go in Saturday’s African Champions League final against Al Ahly, a tie he describes as the biggest club game of his career.
Jali was at the heart of an on-pitch brawl against Kaizer Chiefs in the second half this past Saturday but, never one to shy away from an off-field duel either, the midfield general reacted angrily this week to a question about his discipline.
“If you think I don’t have discipline, it is your problem, not my problem.
“Our team has discipline and mental strength. Our discipline is okay,” Jali snapped at one reporter.
Certainly, one feels the odd loss of cool is more an indication of Jali’s passion for his club than anything else, and there is no doubt that the 23-year-old has been at the heart of the Buccaneers’ success in recent seasons, sweeping up a glut of domestic silverware between 2010 and 2012.
Now, however, comes the opportunity of a lifetime, to take down the African Club of the Century, Al Ahly, defending champions and seven-time winners of the CAF Champions League.
“So far at club level this is the biggest one for me,” Jali admitted.
“It is so long since Pirates won the star. Now we have to come with the second one.”
Much has been made of the Buccaneers’ success of 1995, and with good reason, but Jali shies away from too much discussion of past glories.
He was typically blunt when asked whether there had been much contact from the class of ’95.
“Not at all, not yet,” he said.
The current Pirates side have certainly blazed their own trail in Africa this year, taking down TP Mazembe, Esperance and Zamalek along the way, as well as taking four points off Al Ahly in the group stages.
Jali played and scored in August, as the Buccaneers thrashed Al Ahly 3-0 in El Gouna, and missed the return game, a goalless draw in Orlando, through injury.
“That won’t help us now,” said Jali about their previous success against Ahly.
“We beat them at home and drew at our stadium, but now we have to work hard (again) and do our best not to concede at home.”
Ahly are doing their best to create an intimidating atmosphere for the second leg on November 10, hoping to play the game in Cairo, with permission from the government to fill the stadium with their passionate fans.
Previously, the political situation in Egypt has forced them to play games in the far less hostile El Gouna, either completely without support, or with severely limited attendances.
The Red Devils, however, do appear to be struggling to find the correct venue for the game, with a report from Al Ahram online reporting that they are not happy with the pitch at the 60 000-seater Arab Contractors stadium.
“Ahly has asked the Ministry of Interior to choose between Cairo Stadium, the Air Defence Stadium and the Military Academy’s Stadium to host the final,” said a statement on the club’s official website, according to Al Ahram.
Pirates, meanwhile, are hoping for a capacity crowd to cheer them on at Orlando Stadium on Saturday, with their home crowds fairly poor thus far in the competition.
Pirates’ home record, indeed, has not been great, with just one win since the group stages started.
“For us it is a problem … we call them (the fans) to come and support us, because it is our last game at home.
“They must come in numbers,” added Jali.