Can Kaizer Chiefs deliver in Africa?
JOHANNESBURG – There’s a thin line between continental and domestic football but both require hard work for success and that’s why a good outing in one of the competitions can provide a much-needed boost for the other.
But what do you do when you are Kaizer Chiefs, who are heading to the preliminary round of a CAF Champions League qualifier on the back of an underwhelming start to their domestic campaign?
Well, that remains a mystery after a poor start to the domestic season where they were humiliated by Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 semifinals and bagged five points out of a possible 15 in the league. And Chiefs don’t seem to have the answers either.
Sure, their main stumbling block this season could be that their transfer ban was upheld by Fifa. But that they kept the same squad that lost out on the Premiership title on the last day of last season, some even tipped them to continue where they left off.
After all, in Gavin Hunt they now have an astute multiple championship winning coach who’s turned ordinary players into champions.
But Chiefs, even with Hunt, have been shadows of their former selves after also losing their last match against Premiership returnees Swallows FC 1-0 on Tuesday night.
Swallows bagged all three points in the Soweto derby with seven minutes remaining courtesy of Joseph Mhlongo’s thumping shot from close range.
But don’t for a second think that it was a late smash and grab victory for the Birds.
It was in fact a commanding win that deserved nothing less than three points for coach Brandon Truter’s men.
But on the flip side, it was a heart-wrenching defeat for Chiefs who needed all the confidence they could get ahead of their next encounter in Cameroon.
On Sunday, Chiefs will meet Cameroon champions PWD Bamenda, a team from a war zone region. The city of Bamenda is situated in the north west of
Cameroon, 366km from the capital Yaounde.
Bamenda won the championship in their first season after promotion, having spent almost 14 years in the lower ranks.
Relatively unknown on the continent, Bamenda have had profound outings in their preparations during the Fifa break when they trounced the South Sudan national team 3-0, while defeating Sudanese giants Al Ahli Tripoli 2-1.
Should Chiefs come away with a win over the two-legged encounter, with the second leg at home on the weekend of December 4-6, they’ll be on course to qualify for the group stage.
But first they’ll need to defeat Angolan giants Premiero De Agosto in the second round of the qualifiers over another two-legged contest.
Chiefs are under pressure to conquer the continent, with local rivals Mamelodi Sundowns and Pirates paving the way in 2016 and 1995 respectively.
Despite their well-documented success locally, Chiefs’ only recorded achievement on the continent was in 2001 when they won the African Cup Winners’ Cup, which is now known as the CAF Confederation Cup.
Their recent participation in continental football has been underwhelming, though.
After winning the league title twice in three seasons, in 2012/13 and 2014/15, and finishing third in 2017/18, they haven’t gone past the qualifying round to reach the group stage.
And with them low on confidence, the odds appear to be stacked against them this season as well.