Kaizer Chiefs out to spoil Pitso Mosimane, Al Ahly’s ’La Decima’ party
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JOHANNESBURG - After guiding Kaizer Chiefs to their first ever final in the Caf Champions League, thanks to their 1-0 aggregate win over Wydad Casablanca in the semi-finals, interim coach Arthur Zwane cut an emotional figure at the FNB Stadium auditorium on Saturday night.
"It was never going to be an easy journey for us as a team. We knew that it was going to be tough because we had to compete against the best teams on the continent," Zwane said.
"Going back to the game, we knew their strength from day one (in the group stage)."
He continued: "I think they'll regret the day they sent their B team (in the second leg of the group stage). It's more like a learning curve that when you are on the roll, don't take anyone for granted. We were seen as underdogs, and not good enough, but they paid the price."
For more than two decades, Chiefs were reportedly not taking continental competitions seriously. Since winning the Nelson Mandela Cup (also known as s Winners’ Cup) two decades ago, they’ve had no success in continental football, unlike domestically.
Moreover, the volume increased on those talks after arch-rivals Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns became the country’s flag bearers in the Pan-African competition. Pirates won the African crown 26 years ago, in 1995, before reaching another final in 2013.
Sundowns were losing finalists in 2001 before finally being crowned the Kings of the Continent in 2016. Chiefs, after 51 years of establishment, have finally joined the elite class by reaching their maiden final this season where they’ll face Al Ahly on July 17.
“We have always wanted to represent our club in Caf domestic,” said Zwane who was part of the Nelson Mandela Cup winning class in 2001. “Things were just not going our way. People will believe otherwise because we didn’t reach the semi-finals or knockout stage.”
He added: “It’s not that we didn’t want to win it. We’ve always wanted to but we’ve had challenges, like any other team. But we had to look at possibilities of how we can help the team to compete at this level. And I think we are on the right track so far. We have a plan.”
Al Ahly are the defending champions of the competition. They are chasing their record 10th title (La Decima). But what makes an interesting feat ahead of their clash against Chiefs is that they are coached by South African-born coach Pitso Mosimane, who's already won the crown twice.