Kaizer Chiefs have quality to win Africa’s biggest prize, says former coach Muhsin Ertugral
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JOHANNESBURG - Former Kaizer Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertugral says his players’ confidence and productive pre-season preparations were the secret behind his team’s successful outing in the 27th edition of the Nelson Mandela Cup back in December 2001.
Amakhosi became the first South African side to win the Mandela Cup, now known as the CAF Confederation Cup. They beat InterClub Luanda 2-1 on aggregate in the final, despite having only 15 players in the match-day squad for the return leg.
“Heading to the final, we had already won three trophies. In the first half of the season, we had a fantastic run, considering how the boys were taking care of themselves and how the team was organised,” Ertugral told Independent Media from Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday.
“We had already won the Vodacom Cup (among other trophies). This was a good preparation tournament for us.
More and more, the team became confident. And I remember some of the senior players then, saying ‘we can’t be beaten, we can only beat ourselves’.”
Fast forward 20 years since that triumphant night at Ellis Park and Chiefs are on the cusp of winning the biggest prize in continental football – the Champions League. They’ll face defending champions Al Ahly in the showdown at Stade Mohammed V on July 17.
Unlike their purple patch in the early 2000s, Chiefs have struggled lately. They are trophy-less in the last six domestic seasons, while they needed back-to-back wins over Golden Arrows and TS Galaxy to seal a top-eight finish last season.
Chiefs may have been below-par in domestic football, but they punched above their weight to get this far on the continent, knocking out favourites like Horoya AC and Wydad Casablanca. That’s why Ertugral says they have quality players at their disposal.
“They have quality players. Nobody can tell me the players in that group are not quality enough,” Ertugral said. “They were just unlucky not to win the league two seasonsn ago. I’ve heard someone in football say, ‘you can’t be a good team today and a bad one tomorrow’.”
A squad member from Chiefs’ winning run in the Nelson Mandela Cup is expected to be barking instructions on the touchline in Morocco. Arthur Zwane is the Glamour Boys' co-coach, alongside Dillon Sheppard. They are holding the fort for Brit coach Stuart Baxter.
The latter is currently waiting for his work permit after being appointed as Gavin Hunt's replacement late last season. Ertugral says Chiefs could be on the backfoot slightly against Al Ahly, given that they haven’t play competitive football for some time now.
Coached by Pitso Mosimane, the nine-time African champions are still juggling continental and domestic football as they are also chasing the league title. They are second in the league and trail Zamalek, who have played six games more, by 16 points.